Auntie Flo are purveyors of some of the finest rhythms from around the world – their wide-ranging knowledge of where to go to find the purest aural goodness isn't matched easily. There's been plenty of effort put into the upcoming Highlife World Series: Kenya and Esa Williams is here to tell you all about how the release was shaped before he guides us through two lovely pieces of music;
"In late summer 2014, I landed in Nairobi, Kenya to start a new project with Santuri. Having already run into the East African music collective by accident in Kampala, Uganda at DoaDoa (which will be the next Highlife World Series : Uganda), it was clear there was exciting things happening in the region, and Kenya was to be no different. Santuri is a movement made up various producers, musicians, DJs and sound engineers from around East Africa and beyond, with a mission to reinvigorate the region’s sound – putting producers like myself together with a new breed of talent across East Africa."
Sarabi – Koko’s Vibration
The colours most related to Koko’s Vibration are the colours of Lake Naivasha, also known for its Floriculture which is the main industry around the lake. This was spectacular and a great inspiration to forming the basis of the arrangement to this track by a young, enthusiastic and energetic band from Nairobi, Kenya – Sarabi.
The track was created as a partnership between Santuri (see more on Santuri here) and selected artists who performed at the Rift Valley Festival in August – part of the Kenyan rainy season. Luckily the sun shone over the lake for the weekend and kept us warm and inspired.
As a nice way of opening our session, I introduced Sarabi and the Santuri crew to the sounds of Francis Bebey, Nozinja's Shangaan Electro and other African artists who have been recognised internationally; including Mr William Onyeabor, where we also found inspiration for the little keyboard hook and the groove of the track.
The basic idea of the track was already started by Sarabi before they had arrived – myself and Ambrose (the co producer) decided to give it a club context but still respecting its roots vibe and the results were a cross pollination of ideas which gave it it’s instant timeless feel. Since then I’ve been lucky to have seen this track being performed live in the Old Fort at Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar, which for me was the ideal setting to experience the track coming alive in a magical environment.
Makadem – Salaam
“Salaam” was also recorded at the same setting as the previous track Koko’s Vibration but what made this track really specially to us was the live improv performance later that evening in a tent with about 300 people all getting lost to the unique sounds of Makadem’s Nyatiti (a traditional and instantly recognisable precursor to the guitar) meanwhile Ambrose Akula Akwabi (Head producer and sound engineer for Santuri) and I on various electronic equipment to compliment the atmosphere, included were random percussionist each playing a unique instrument which formed this kaleidoscope of colour which went on for at least 45mins.
Makadem brought a very different mood to the recording session, it was almost that sense of anticipation of thick cloud cover and expectation of rain which never arrived but with the relief of sunshine and hope of a better days weather.
At 9am on the first morning of our recording sessions Ambrose Akula Akwabi one of Santuri’s head producers and sound engineers played me a track idea he had been working on. Even before Makadem had arrived I was showing him and some of Santuri’s young East African producers and DJ’s some tips and trick of how I come up with new ideas and the bases of tracks, so by the time Makadem arrived no words were exchanged, we shook hands and he immediately got on his Nyatiti. 30mins later we put down some vocal ideas and had a finished track before lunch time. I then set out to prepare for a live showcase later that evening at the Rift Valley festival where we span out the groove for the best part of an hour.
As this track was also created, shared and performed in Kenya, my next step is for us to share this experience to the world. We’ve been lucky to secure some dates in the UK with Makadem and another amazing artist from Uganda called Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi, – the first being on the 18th July for the Barbican’s garden party in Walthamstow and more dates to follow. More info on this coming soon.
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