wgNetworks PHOTOS: Night Dancers Through the Lens of Joose Digital

NuNairobi Revival: Inside Nairobi’s New Music Movement

Night Dancers is an annual event, celebrating indie artists, musicians, designers, filmmakers, performers, social entrepreneurs and creative individuals who enrich, grow and challenge Kenyan culture to new levels. This year’s event goes down on December 1st at The Alchemist Bar. Grab your tickets here.

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We rekindle Night Dancers 2016! Meet the Millennial Musicians Behind Nairobi’s New Movement.

“I’m just making music from my heart/ Not music for the charts,” wgNetworks Acting Managing Editor Vincent Libosso comments on Sheng Talk concerning the Night Dancers Event, taken from Reggae Neo Roots artist, Protoje. 

It is 4.00 in the morning on a Sunday in Nairobi and I am standing at the edge of a creative yard that has become home to the new wave of creatives in Nairobi, The Alchemist Bar in Westlands.

I am almost four hours into my second day at a Halloween Party called the Night Dancers.

Although Halloween has forever been seen as not an event many Africans would care to celebrate, but amazingly, how music and the spookiness mash up just brings out the best of the artists.

There is a legit about this event experience. Young Nairobians, who form a big part of the base crowd, speak about these artists on the line up the way an Italian chef may describe pizza making.

There is some magic happening in this city. Night Dancers held a distinction. It was real. It showcased the unity of these acts drawn from different places around the world. The artists sang from their hearts and where they are musically. Why they had to move from being individuals to being collectives.

Crate digging from last year @therawwfilmmaker at #nightdancers #nairobi #nunairobi #gigphotography

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Heck, they shared bands through live performances, backing up each other when headlining to strategic collaborations, partnerships and specialization. They brought out their crazy studio experiments and allowed the crowd to decide whether it was whack or good.

Caught up with the music inside the massive crowd rocking his signature round hats, was the god-father of this movement, Blinky Bill from Just a Band.

More than 20 acts perform on this night, stacked up in short sets yet quite explosive. Though they have all cultivated lyrical styles all their own, the Revival musicians are marked by an unmistakable restraint, seriousness, unity and stage theatrics not shared by the older Nairobi musicians.

At this point, the whole crowd is drawn in like the infamous Mexican wave in a football match. Already word has gone around and there is unkept secret that visiting international star, Toya Delazy is at the venue to check out this revival and watch Tetu Shani who is on her opening act show line up for Sunday, perform.

And so again the crowd rises to its feet when Taio calls Toya Delazy on stage. Delivering heavy punches and just two tracks for the night, Toya backed by her band deliver melodically.

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“Night Dancers was full of stellar live performances that exhibited high level of mastery and musicianship for a young generation of artists thanks to a community that is investing in each other to build a scene that can sustain itself and still push boundaries…” What’s Good Studios Head of PR and Experiential Marketing, Clinton Oyaro.

The first time I heard about NuNairobi, being a reggae host on wgRADIO, the connection to the same 2014 reggae revival in Jamaica with the neo roots artists like Jah9, Protoje, Chronixx among others was evident. There was a connection.

But with NuNairobi, Taio telling explain of a mystery. The current generation of artists in Nairobi doesn’t seem very interested in producing “kapuka” or “genge” music; neither do they want to make music that directly imitates western artists, as UP Nairobi explains.

Finding NuNairobi came with some consciousness. There was change in beats led by pioneer experiment collective EA Wave, production and even music distribution. Just like their Jamaican counterparts, they began to emphasize the positive, experimentation, organizing their own events and remaining communal.

#nightdancers BTS @meremeka

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Internet and especially Soundcloud coupled by social media played an integral part in sharing their music projects out. That awareness would see festivals like Nyege Nyege in Jinja Uganda come calling and this year since the festival inception, a large contingent made up of NuNairobi artists, media and fans packed two buses to the festival. The largest contingent ever from Nairobi. Their performances in Jinja would earn them equal respect alongside fellow African and international acts.

Radio play still not forthcoming, the movement decided to venture into self organized and curated events. They would take the music to the people who would stand in front of them with ears attentively.

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“I’ve been thinking that we have come so far in NBI in 2016 – creative collectivism has replaced despondency, to such an extent that creatives are now engaged in helping with the new music and film bills – it’s not all roses (and there is a long way to go) but that energy I felt at the start of the year has blossomed into many things tangible – on all creative fronts – the game has been changed UP – serious advances in quality and a collaborative mindset are creating strength. I would name names but there are too many – you know who you are because it feels right. #LoveOurOwn.” Jude Clark, Founder Joose Digital.

Here are some things that have happened ever since: Tetu Shani and Mayonde’s Chemistry has become the biggest song on Soundcloud and the most remixed Kenyan song ever. Cosmic Homies have carried the flag high at the international SXSW (South by South West) Festival in Texas, USA. Artists like Trina Mungai and Prisca Ojwang are on the verge of putting solo stage performances.

During this time the #NuNairobi name has functioned ingeniously as a hashtag and an umbrella, ensuring that when one artist is written about, they all are. One artist celebrated, for them is the whole movement celebrated.

NuNairobi is happening and you can take our word to the bank. Why now you ask? Because the world is ready for this kind of music now. African sound is ready and Nairobi is not being left behind.

T.H.R.O.W.B.A.C.K #vsco #vscokenya #igkenya #NuNairobi #nightdancers

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A local DJ mentions the global shift in consciousness is why NuNairobi is happening now. The return to live music is what is fueling this movement. Kapuka and Genge (emphasize on playback during live performance) may dominate radio, but the live scene is well dominated by NuNairobi sound.

What NuNairobi sound carries that other genres don’t have is the group unity. There is no superstar mentality. Each individual is talented and they all know that, but it is what happens when they all are put together that it becomes mind-bendingly complex.

Their intent is on rising as a group. Supporting each others projects and showing up at each other’s performances.

For this reason, when Marushka took the stage that Night Dancers night, she sang portions from Blinky Bill’s single. She even coronated Blinky as the god-father of the NuNairobi movement.

That Sunday morning leaving Night Dancers, I can’t shake the feeling, that the future looks bright.

#NuNairobi

“Old Nairobi was on life support, dead but being kept alive by two or three very specialized doctors,” TAIO of Cosmic Homies. 

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