Guitar is one of the most outstanding instruments in any musical setup
The Nairobi Guitar Festival (NGF) is a local music initiative established in 2017 by Amos Kiptoon, an artistic director and Robin Marcel Moustache, an events director.
Being professional musicians themselves, their main purpose was to promote the guitar, for which they had grown a keen passion.
Their regular festivals and weekly workshops became a haven for musicians and music enthusiasts alike.
Says Robin, “We aimed to bring valuable education on the instrument and to create an avenue that would gather some of the best guitarists of all genres, levels, styles and backgrounds to share their experience through performances and lectures.
We would like to make this part of Eastern Africa’s guitar cultural and education centre by promoting excellence in musicianship, guitar literature and education.”
Amos and Robin met in the underground rock scenes in 2007. At that time, Amos was a member of two bands called Parking Lot Grass and Seismic, while Robin played with The Awakening and The Claymore Project.
Back then, bands used to compete at an annual event called Battle of the Bands, where they would regularly meet. They then decided to launch the establishment in September 2017.
“I had initially planned to hold guitar clinics at Red Fourth Academy where I had previously served as a creative director, but after meeting Amos, we decided to work on a partnership as opposed to having different platforms for the workshops,” says Robin.
Some hosts that have graced the themed NGF workshops include Manaseh Uzele—the official NGF patron and a guitar instructor at the Kenyan Conservatoire of Music, Tugi Mlamba, Kato Change, Mark Mwanyigah, Mabiza Mabele, John Were, Kevin Munyi, Ngare Mukiria, Peter Munguti and Wandiri Karimi.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic brought the NGF and its associated events to a halt.
“Our aim was to build customised, interactive and exciting course programmes.
The programme we’d made was formulated to empower guitar players in areas such as technique development, theoretical understanding of music, musical creativity and to generally improve musicianship skills at a personal level,” Robin says.
Stage to showcase
After every two successful guitar workshop events, guitarists were given a platform to showcase their talents in the exciting and all instrumental guitar affair called Solo Night.
He adds, “As things get back to normal, we hope to organise guitar summits, trainings, competitions and mini-concerts, as we continue to develop cooperation with various institutions or organisations with similar interests in advancing music education, especially on the guitar.
So far, we have managed to partner with the Kenya Conservatoire of Music, Hedgehog Creative and D’addario, who have become essential supporters of the initiative, as they ensured we had a venue for workshops and provided strings and accessories for participants.”
Robin says one of their most notable workshops was themed ‘Art of Guitar’ held in October 2018.
“It was an all-female led workshop in celebration of Women’s Day where we had Robyn Furguson and Tamla McMahon fly in all the way from South Africa to host it.
The event was steered towards celebrating female guitarists who thrive in the male-dominated industry,” he says.
He further says all their events are aimed at empowering guitar talent and giving them a platform to flourish.
“For instance, Guitar Guru is an online guitar event that involves a number of guitarists competing against each other for the overall top position.
This provides a perfect platform for both established and aspiring bands to expose their talents to a varied and wide audience that would otherwise be limited if it were in a live setting.
The competition is vetted by a panel of judges that includes seasoned guitarists, who judge the performers according to varied musical aspects such as technical ability, precision and musicality among other elements,” he says.
For healing purposes
On April 22, 2018, NGF debuted another project called The Dorian.
“We hoped to take the guitar into healthcare centres for people who could not otherwise experience the joy of guitar music due to health challenges. Dorian is scheduled monthly.
It was inspired by our growing understanding of music’s role in helping to advance the wellbeing and recovery of patients,” intimates Robin.
Guitarists are encouraged to enrol for the programme aimed at improving healthcare experiences not only for the patients, but also for the immediate families and staff.
Interested participants can register for the programme on [email protected].
Amos says in coclusion, “Our background as guitarists gave us the passion to start the NGF and provide a platform where all guitarists can relate from one another in a community.
Our hope is to document Kenyan guitar playing culture and create an archive of some sort that can be accessible to the next generation of guitarists.
Funding is our biggest challenge, as we have no financial support for now. We nonetheless hope we meet the right partners.”