Simphiwe Dana is an amazing artist. I first encountered her at the Cape Town Jazz Festival in 2011 which I went to cover with a bunch of other arts journos. The performers were many at the place including the world famous Earth Wind and Fire.
The marquee performance over that weekend was however Dana’s as far as I was concerned. Another Kenyan journo and I were lucky enough to be introduced to her and she promised that we would be enjoying her performance. In fact in our honour, the first song would be dedicated to us she said. Queue big head on my part. True to her promise her first song was one I was familiar with; Malaika. This is that song made internationally famous by Miriam Makeba. I enjoyed her rendition of that song and waited for her other songs. I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen but when it started I was blown away. Her songs are almost a religious experience and even though I had no idea what language she was singing in that lady had people clapping and waving hands and dancing. It was off the flipping hook!
So when she came to visit our little city (Nairobi is little in relation with Johannesburg) last weekend there was no way I would miss that show. I attended her listening party on the Friday and then attended the Koroga festival on Sunday where she was the headline act.
The Koroga Festival for the uninformed is a live event which happens periodically in Nairobi city usually at the Arboretum grounds. In the recent past I believe some of the acts to have performed to include Baba Maal, Papa Wemba and someone else who escapes me right now. The event has many stands including the Otange designs, Vamos Grill which my good pal Gitau sold earlier the year and more.
The brand that was giving Nairobi folks a change to sample its product was Carlsberg, the famous beer. I had a chat with a Carlsberg representative who wanted to know what I thought of the product now that I had tasted it. I tried to be honest, it’s not the greatest beer but it’s definitely better than Guinness (I don’t really like dark beers), but I don’t think she appreciated my candid feedback. Next time I’ll just give the teenager opinion. Q; How was the beer? A: Fine. Q: Fine? As is how? A: Just fine.
As the curtain raisers performed I moved around saying hey to people Paul Munene of Quaint photography, Kitizo Makatiani who I hadn’t seen in many many moons, Augustine who I knew as manager for Fiesta back in the day, Priya Chana who is back in town after a stint in Dar and London, Kui Wanyoike over at Ogilvy and a whole host of others. It was quite a full house there.
Then Simphiwe Dana got on stage and I went to listen to her set and just she rocked man. She was in a lovely tutu (Binyavanga Wainaina came through and commented, “she has a better tutu than mine.” I laughed
respectfully uproariously). She went through some of her popular songs and there was singing from the crowd (there were a dozen or so South Africans dancing like crazy in there) and insisting on her to sing more. She also gave a legendary set of the Malaika song and debuted her new song Firebrand. She also did a song or two with Kenyan artist Juliani.
A brilliant afternoon was had by all.
You can also see some more images from Quaint Photography here