Despite hard economic times, performing arts has lit people’s hearts, brought cheer

Friday, December 6th, 2019 00:00 |

It has been a good calendar for the Kenyan showbiz scene. Despite the economic hard times, an exciting wave in the performing arts sector has lit people’s hearts and brought a cheer. CHEBET KORIR and GRACE WACHIRA look at some of the top highlights of 2019


This weekend, two music concerts are set to rock town. The Big Deal Concert at Impala Grounds will feature Jamaican trio of reggae and dancehall artistes Chris Martin, D Major and Future Fambo, and an array of Kenyan performers too.

Across the city, the 2019 Jameson Connects party will take centre stage at the Uhuru Gardens. American hip-hop artiste T.I and a host of local musicians are expected to perform.

These two concerts are billed to be one of the biggest highlight shows in 254 this year. But we’ve already had a few more before them.

Nobody Can’t Stop Reggae 

Reggae fans were in for a thrill in February as the ‘Nobody Can’t Stop Reggae’ concert went down in Nairobi. The show featured one of Jamaica’s best reggae artistes Richell Bonner aka Richie Spice.

Thousands of reggae faithful packed-up the venue to enjoy some good vibes from the Gideon Boot hitmaker. Deejays Juan, Moh Spice and ZJ Heno entertained from the wheels of steel.

Koroga Festival

It was another brilliant year for Koroga Festival fans. The event, a celebration of African music, food, art and fashion, happened four times this year and it never disappointed.

The 25th edition went down in March and was headlined by Nigerian-French singer Asa. The July edition lined up meticulous artistes including Nigerian music legend Femi Kuti and Kenya’s Them Mushrooms.

The following edition took place in September. It was headlined by Ivorian reggae legend Alpha Blondy.

The last edition of the year went down last weekend at the Bomas of Kenya and lined up Congolese rhumba maestros Kanda Bongo Man and M’bilia Bel.

Soweto Gospel Choir

Arguably one of the best choirs in Africa, the Soweto Gospel Choir visited Nairobi in August and sang their hearts out.

The choir that boasts of Emmy and Grammy awards proved their prowess in an energy packed two-hour performance, belting out some of their greatest hits including Avulekile Amasango.

SpellCast, Redfourth Chorus, Pitson, Karura Voices and Nikita Kering were some of the acts that curtain raised for the choir at the Christ Is The Answer Ministries (Citam) in Karen. 

Safaricom Jazz Festival 

Jazz lovers were in for a spoil on February 17, as multiple Grammy award-winner Marcus Miller headlined the annual Safaricom International Jazz Festival at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi.

Other supporting acts included Kato Change, Ghetto Classics and Safaricom Youth Orchestra (Kenya), Toine Thys featuring Herve Samb (Belgium), Jazzrausch Bigband (Germany), Omni Mor Trio (Israel), Vivian (Portugal) and Yazmin Lacey (UK).


The annual all-nighter gig, Africa Let’s Worship (Aflewo), Nairobi experience was held at the Citam Karen in October.

The event had worshippers travel across counties to take part in the experience that usually features hundreds of choir members from different churches across the country.

The event was a resounding success, despite the heavy rains witnessed on that day. Political leaders as well as the church gathered to worship and pray for the nation.

Praise Atmosphere

The worship event went down early November with international artistes leading in praise and worship. Among them were Salt of the Earth hitmaker Michael Mahendere from Nigeria, Sitabaki Nilivyo’s Joel Lwaga from Tanzania, Mkhululi Bhebhe (Joyous Celebration) from Zimbabwe and Kenya’s Evelyne Wanjiru. The gig was held at the Citam Valley Road church in Nairobi. 

 Africa Laugh Festival 

The third edition of the International Africa Laugh Festival tickled thousands of revellers in Nairobi in July.

It lined up a thrilling array of comedians including Kenya’s MC Jessy, Proffesor Hamo, Sleepy David and MC Tricky. Others included Uganda’s Salvador, Agnes Akite and Teacher Mpamire, Rwanda’s Arthur Nkusi and Tanzania’s Coy Muzungu. 

 Concours d’Elegance 

For motor lovers, the 49th edition of the CBA Africa Concours d’Elegance held the last weekend of September at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi was a moment to cherish.

Organised by the Alfa Romeo Owners Club in partnership with the Commercial Bank of Africa, it was a showcase of vintage automobile from around the continent.

John Wroe’s Ford Tudor 1930 and his daughter Veronica Wroe’s 1934 Rolls Royce Boatail jointly won in the car section, with Saty Jabar’s DKW 1925 emerging the overall winner in the bike category. They were thrilled by rapper-singer Nyashinski and DJ Joe Mfalme.

    THE THEATRE      

Lwanda Rockman

In June, the Chatterbox Collective, Modo Music and Media presented Lwanda      Rockman, a modern interpretation of the classic story Re-imagined.

Written and directed by John ‘JJ’ Jumbi, the play wittingly had theatre gurus and Jims and Dims dancers tell the story of the Luo legend, Luanda.

It was riddled with pun and seamlessly helped us appreciate live music from Shamsi Music who were part of the production as well.

The play was screened at the Kenya National Theatre for two weekends with sold out tickets on each rerun.

Sarafina The Musical

July saw the phenomenal Sarafina play make a comeback this year following last year’s sold-out success. It starred Sheila Munyiva from the Oscar nominated film Rafiki, Mkamzee Mwatela, Lusala, Martin Githinji and Hellen Mtawali.

It also featured a 40-member cast and a live orchestra giving it the musical touch. It retold the story of South Africa’s apartheid regime with song and dance and was a great success.

Too Early for Birds

This year’s Too Early for Birds was directed by Mugambi Nthiga. The edition told stories from the life and death of Tom Mboya through witty and creative stories as written by Ngartia, Magunga Williams, Mercy Mbithe, Hellen Masido and Wanjiku Mwawuganga.

The show that was shown in October made a rerun in November due to public demand. It was staged at Visa Oshwal Community Centre, Nairobi.


The Lion King

In July, Nairobi was honoured as the fourth country world over to premiere one of the biggest movies of the year, The Lion King.

The premier at Garden City’s Century Cinemax had hundreds of movie fans throng the cinema’s auditorium. The guests were among the select few who got the chance to watch the movie that put Kenya on the global map.

You Again

The pun-riddled You Again film featured actors such as Nick Mutuma, Mimi Mars, Amalie Chopetta, Morris Mwangi, Neomi Ng’ang’a, Kate Snow and Eddie Mbugua. It debuted in September.

The storyline is pegged on Kingsley Baraza (Nick Mutuma) who finds himself working with his ex-Sophia (Mimi Mars).

These exes work around finding a way to get work done regardless of how annoying they find each other. Notably, the movie bagged the Best Supporting Actress in a Film (Neomi Ng’ang’a) at the just concluded Kalasha Awards 2019.


Fena Gitu (Unleashed)

A fortnight ago, five years since dropping her debut album Fenamenon, Fena Gitu premiered her sophomore 15-track album dubbed Unleashed in Nairobi. Fena also used the event to celebrate her 10th year in the music industry.

H_art The Band (Made In The Streets)

In the tail end of July, H_art the Band dropped its highly anticipated album, Made In The Streets.

The 13-track album was inspired by the memory of how the group members met at a time they were trying to forge a path in the arts industry.

Moji Shortbabaa (Yesu Mtaani)

Moji Shortbaba launched his album Yesu Mtaani in August at a star-studded event in Nairobi.

Moji went to great lengths throughout the concert as he told his journey from living in Kawangware to becoming the man that he’s become. 

Kagwe Mungai (Spectrum)

The singer launched his album Spectrum in May at The Alchemist Bar in Westlands, Nairobi.

With accompaniment from Tha Movement Band, the singer delivered an eclectic live and raw performance for a multitude that filled the place to the rafters. 

Arrow Bwoy (Hatua)

In September, Arrow Bwoy launched his debut album titled Hatua at the Carnivore. Prior to the launch, the Ngeta hitmaker did a series of events including album listening parties and campus activations to hype-up his big day.

Hatua is a 14-track album with one bonus track and features Kenyan and international collaborations with artistes such as Demarco And Cecile (Jamaica), Mayorkun (Nigeria) and Kenya’s Fena Gitu and Wyre.


Kaligraph Jones

It has been a good year for Kaligraph Jones aka the Original Gangster (OG). This year he has released songs such as Superman, Leave Me Alone and Me Siogopi, while bagging all the big gigs across the country.

He also won the Best Male Artiste in East Africa award at the sixth annual All Africa Music Awards (Afrima) in November.

Fena Gitu

What a year it has been for the ‘Fenamenal’ woman. Fena has literally stolen the show this year. She has crowned her illustrious music calendar with the launch of her second album, Unleashed.

She’s been one among the few artistes in Kenya who have showed unbelievable consistency throughout the year.

Arrow Bwoy

After releasing hits such as Dodo and Lover Man, Arrow Bwoy has slowly cemented his place and 2019 was definitely his year to make it or break it. And he hasn’t disappointed.

He presents a dancehall sound topped up with melodies and a knack for hits for the ladies. The regiment perfectly works for his brand, adding to his 2019 album release, Hatua. 


The bad boys of Decimal Records, Decimators (Masta Ajab, KonKodi, Brian Nadra and Bon’Eye) has indeed rocked us big in 2019.

Their hard-hitting club banger Drinx Na Mayenx that was released in January became an anthem all year through. Music producer Eric Musyoka was heavy on the beat.

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