Joshua Keta is my name and I joined Ghetto Classics in 2011 as a percussionist until 2015 when I became a tutor. I have experienced a lot playing and working with Art of Music and that motivated me to come back and be an intern with the Foundation as an administrative assistant as well as continuing teaching music in Ghetto Classics. My internship begun on the first week of February three weeks before the Safaricom International jazz festival and we have been working on the ground to ensure the event was a success.
Here is my experience working with the Foundation preparing for the Safaricom Jazz festival and taking part in the orchestra playing with JIMEK.
JIMEK is a composer and one of Poland’s best music producers. His popularity exploded when he won Beyoncé’s end of time remix competition in 2012. Recently his symphonic orchestration of the most recognized hip-hop songs hit headlines worldwide and earned him the appreciation of many hip-hop legends (Oleksiak, 2015. )
This renowned artist landed in Kenya in July last year (2017) to perform hip hop history 1 & 2 which was a successful after series of rehearsal with Ghetto Classics and a performance at Oshwal auditorium. I could not manage to attend the event due to unavoidable circumstance but was eager to meet him and play his pieces.
This year was the year to show case the great work of JIMEK, Ghetto classics and Safaricom Youth orchestra to the Kenyan audience as part of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival that happened on 24th and 25th February 2017. This combined orchestra led by JIMEK perfumed were; Hip hop History 1 &2, and Jazz History. The performance did not come as a surprise, but through dedicated and intense rehearsals from the composer and our committed players. Our first rehearsal was a “bam” as both orchestra met for the first time on 18th at MPESA academy to practice a new challenging song (Jazz History) and hip hop 1&2, the experience was exciting as everyone was trying to get into terms with the pieces and feel comfortable with them, for me it was even more fantastic as I didn’t manage to rehearse with him before and I was eager to learn the piece and its crazy rhythms. The heart of the piece was the percussion section since we had to keep all the orchestra on the rhythm and changes in time. The challenge of keeping on changing time rhythms was interesting, and I learn a lot from it. The rehearsals went on well on both days at Mpesa Academy.
There were series of rehearsals from Monday 19th to 22nd Thursday February at Our lady of Fatima Secondary School in Kariobangi. The players who attended the rehearsals were from Ghetto Classics and the all rehearsal went on well, I liked the composer’s way of conducting and encouraging the players during rehearsal, even though the piece was hard then and they could not bring out the exact sound he wanted he still pushed and looked for more interesting parts of the piece to keep the groove going. The commitment and enthusiasm that the all team had, gave JIMEK hope to continue until all players were able to play it perfect.
The rehearsal that amaze me was the one we did on Wednesday 21st where the power went off at around 7:30 pm and JIMEK did not stop but continue with rehearsals until 8:05pm and that was brilliant, and lesson learnt that when you are focused and determined to achieve something, go for it and work for it and don’t let any obstacle stop you from achieving it.
The final rehearsal was conducted at Michael Joseph Centre with all the players present. The most interesting thing with the rehearsal was that the Betty Bears joined to play with us and their contribution brought the fullness and quality in some parts that were missing in the piece.
On 24th February was the concert day for pupils from schools in Nairobi and its environs. I was amazed by the turn up of schools to the jazz concert, the number surpass 2017 turnout. Pupils were more excited, and the show was fantastic. As a percussionist our team was ready to rock it down and we did just that with the guest drummer Mr. Manolo. There after the Bosman and her band rocked the show with a nice South African song (Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba) and that was it, done!
The most awaited day on 25th February came and everyone was exited to experience the fusion of the orchestra in the jazz scene. The Kenyan audience has never experience such a performance before hence this was one of it most celebrated and enjoyed performance of the jazz festival. I was a bit nervous being in front of hundreds of thousands audience but when the Conductor hit the first bow down, all my body was filled with the rhythm and that is how I and all of us nailed it.
There after I managed to have a conversation with some of the renowned artist who performed and it was amazing to hear from them and how they grew as musicians for instance; JIMEK narrated “My father was a jazz artist and I knew this thing was hard to get and understand, the motivation to try it and hence getting along with it became easier and fun after studying composition and film orchestration” Hence he had to develop some discipline and hard work to make it as one of the youngest orchestrated jazz composer in the world.
Article by Joshua Keta