On the evening of Friday 26 February, throngs of fans started arriving at the Goethe-Institut premises in Nairobi at least an hour before the event was scheduled to kick off. Curious passersby could not help but ask a question or two about who was performing. Backstage, meanwhile, the night's performers made their final preparations. The first concert co-hosted by Music In Africa and the Goethe-Institut in Nairobi promised to provide revelers with a taste of the country's freshest sounds - and it certainly didn't fail to deliver.
The music was impeccable and appealed to all the different age groups present at the concert, who made sure that the dancefloor was kept alive all evening. The line-up of DJ Marcus, Frazier Mo-Ray, Inami, HK Gachago, Tetu Shani and Saint Evo was pure magic.
First up on stage was Frazier Mo-ray, whose saxophone skills got the fans screaming in delight. While he didn't talk a lot, his performance set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Next up was Inami. Her smartly written love songs held the audiences enraptured from the word go as she performed solo. Her gratitude for her fans and the emotional connection she had with them felt genuine and was more than a little infectious, as she allowed herself to be pleasantly surprised by spontaneous singing along by the audience.
As the night wore on, HK Gachago took to the stage next. Though he couldn’t quite sustain the affection Inami had created with the audience, one thing was clear about the artist that night: his determination to make it in the music industry is insatiable. Having started out as a percussionist and drummer, he is currently honing his live performance skills as a solo act. The audience was certainly not disappointed though. Hopefully Gachago will get more opportunities to perform live in order to grow his brand as a solo artist.
Tetu’s entrance - with his towering stature and deep vocals - immediately grabbed the attention of the audience. There is something likable about Tetu; maybe it's his facial expressions, perhaps it’s just that he doesn’t try too hard to impress the crowd. He is a natural performer whose presence lights up the stage. His between-song chatter, while kept to a minimum, was also pretty funny, adding to his charm and skill as a performer.
DJ Saint Evo, the main act of the night, came on stage a few minutes past 10pm. His eclectic mix, which includes music from the Kenyan coast, was great. For any music lover who has not yet come to appreciate equatorial house, the new sound that is being pioneered by this DJ, the night provided a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to do so. A few months ago, in September 2015, Saint Evo released ‘The Rapture’, the first single of his debut album, which is expected sometime in 2016. The performances by the artists at Friday's concert - many of whom he has featured on the album - suggest that his album, when it eventually arrives, will be something special.
The concert is one way in which Music In Africa seeks to engage and enable artists to access platforms where they can showcase their talents. Later this year, the Goethe-Institut in Nairobi and Music In Africa will co-host a second showcase as well as panel discussions, an initiative that the organisers hope will support and stimulate the music industry in Kenya. Saint Evo said of the concert: "A big thank you to Music In Africa and Goethe-Institut Nairobi for the great initiative they have made possible for artists in Nairobi! This proves that Kenya has talent brewing and is anxious to contribute to the global stage!"
One thing was clear from the night: unlike many artists doing 'alternative' music who are often faced with the challenge of finding acceptance within Nairobi’s music scene, the night’s performers had succeeded in leaving a lasting impression on the enthusiastic crowd.