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VAS

Maestro makes a jazzy safari in style

REAL TALK
By | November 12th 2010

By MATILDA NZIOKI

In the relaxed evening of last Sunday at the leafy verdant of Bomas of Kenya, a jazz festival was staged to the delight of many a jazz lover; people who often feel the classy panacea of jazz artistry.

Adult contemporary music, like the movies, is restricted to a certain strata. And so it was, this evening at Bomas, with the ambience of jazz in the air.

Elegant dÈcor and lighting brightened the auditorium as chic dressed celebrities streamed in. There was a cocktail and lounge setting at the back of the venue and an open bar.

Class acts

Before the main attraction took to stage, a local line-up of artistes Valerie Kimani, Viola Karuri and Eddie Grey performed as revellers grooved to the soft music and super instrumentation. Four months after giving birth to a bouning baby boy, Valerie still rocks on stage. She suantered on stage performing her latest compositions.

Dressed in a purple African print skirt and sleeveless top, Vallerie upped the ante dancing with the crowd who were totally enchanted with her.

Right before Valerie wowed the crowd, it was dreadlocked jazz musician Eddie Grey who showcased his wizardry with the guitar. His performance tapped in from folk melodies.

If the show belonged to legendary Jonathan Butler, it also offered a chance for the audience to watch a new revelation in yet another act — Viola Karuri. The Berklee College-trained musician endeared herself to the fans.

Backed by her singers, she introduced the fans to her world of music.

The musician who graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2005 with a degree in music production and engineering thrilled with her own compositions.

Her vocal prowess was unbelievable as she hit both the high and low notes backed up with her band, Akala.

As Viola bowed on stage, the MC for the night, Mwanki Mageria invited the showstopper, Jonathan Butler.

Fans left their seats ready for to dance, making clear the anticipation they had for the maestro. And the talented musician did not disappoint. He belted out some of his hits as the crowd sang along. They included Do You Love Me? off the Ultimate album, and the 1990s hit Lies as well as tracks from the latest album So Strong.

National icon

The album speaks volumes about his outlook after a tumultuous year wrought with immense personal loss, pain and suffering, including the battle his wife has had with cancer.

The 49-year-old musician grew from poverty in a township in South Africa to being an international icon. His breakthrough came when he became the first black whose song played on white radio, during apartheid.

"I suddenly became famous and couldn’t walk the street without being noticed," he says. He moved to the UK where he lived for seventeen years before relocating to the US, and currently resides in South California with his wife and two daughters Jodie and Randy, whose vocals are included on So Strong. Butler, who describes himself as a showbiz kid, who grew up in the limelight was born in a musical family too, as his parents.

This is the second Jazz showpiece, which saw an attendance of more than 1,000 fans. "We organise the Jazz Safari to promote local jazz artistes by giving them a platform to showcase their talent to a select audience," explains Alan Murungi.

Last year the guest performer was renowned jazz star Gerald Albright.

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