Yunasi Band Back on the Music Scene

DSCF2437Yunasi Band, undoubtedly one of the best afro-fusion band in the country are back matter music. Yunasi Band has been off the radar for a couple of years now with individual members pursuing different musical projects but this is set to change after the band’s main members: Thobias Imani, Erick Odhiambo, Davis Ngalah and Simon Maranga signed up with Sub Sahara Entertainment label.

The music label already boasts of some of Kenya’s most successful and internationally acclaimed music artists such as Mercy Myra, Abbi, Kanja, Camp Mulla, Kusma, Tiri, Shappaman and a host of stellar up and coming artists such as Military Swagg Team, Sequiera and Biko.

Yunasi Band has developed a unique East African music style called Sesube which is a combination of Sega, Isikuti and Benga. It takes sounds and inspirations from local Kenyan communities, cultural styles and languages and fuses those sounds with a European component. The sound is achieved by playing a variety of instruments, both traditional and modern. The band sings in several languages including Swahili, English, French, Luo, Kisii and Luhya.

The group is best remembered for outstanding numbers like my all-time favourite Ji opogore and Usilewe ndi ndi ndi. Other songs by the Band are Don’t Go, Feel It featuring Wyre the Love Child and Shamaheri.

Yunasi Band has managed to collaborate with international artists for recording and joint performances: The band collaborated with a Belgian Blues artiste, Rolandvan Campenhout, in the album, Atomic Power which won the best folk album in the 2006 Belgian ZAMU Awards. This was preceded by joint concerts in Nairobi and Belgium. They also collaborated with a French singer, Nicoletta to perform concerts in Nairobi and Paris. The band also co-performed with the South African rapper Tumi and the Volume at the Blankets and Wine festival, Nairobi.



  • Winners of the December 2007 BBC’s Next Big Thing Competition – December 2007
  • US International Songwriting Contest- March 2006
  • Yunasi were announced 2nd runners up at the prestigious US International Songwriting Contest for the song Ji Opogore (The Difference of People) obtaining 3rdplace in the World Music category out of 16,000 entries from all over the world.
  • Kisima Award -2004 Kisima Award (Kenya) for best afro-fusion band in Kenya
  • Nomination at all-African Kora Award – 2004


Ebenezer by Angela Chibalonza

chiba+pixThis morning, I heard this song and it has been ringing in my head. Without doubt, the late Angela Chibalonza Runiga, was talented. She had a mellow voice but this would have been futile if she didn’t get well written songs.

Ebenezer speak to many. The journey that we have all taken and when we often take that walk down memory lane, there are many things you see and appreciate. Many things that you feel perhaps you should have done differently. Others that went very well and if given another chance, you would not change anything. Triumphs; celebration; regrets; encouragement; success and many other things. You see things that will amaze you and when all is said and done, one can only be thankful because truly– “Sio kwa uwezo wangu,ila ni kwa uwezo wako; Mahali nimefika, acha nikushukuru.” I guess that is has really struck me with this song today.

Borrowing from her country’s everfresh beat, Angela’s songs is grounded in rumba in its storytelling nature and instrumentation. As observed, the story is capable of touching anyone who listens to it. However, it is the beat, that inspite of being a gospel song, is truly embedded in that memorable beat that Mwalimu King’ang’i a.k.a. Churchill occasionally refers to as “muziki bila jasho.”

Singing mainly in Lingala and Kiswahili and at times in French, Angel is fondly remembered in Kenya and through her music, she lives on. In this song, Ebenezer, the entire song is awesome but I love the part that she breaks into Lingala. I have no clue what she says and would be grateful if someone translated but it is great. This is what she say:

Ebeneza lang’a, libanga nangai ya tala;

Ole kidya mape wolo papa ee kati na bomoyi nanga;

Nzambe na kumisio, mokote ko nani nayo;

Bisika nako milele o yahwe, ezali sela makasi nayo.

Awesome. And here is the rest of the song:

Umbali tumetoka, na mahali tumefika,

Ndio maana ninatambua, kwamba wewe ni ebeneza,

Sio kwa uwezo wangu,ila ni kwa uwezo wako,

Mahali nimefika, acha nikushukuru,

EE Bwana umenisaidia, nifike mahali nimefika.

Bwana wewe ni ebeneza, maishani mwangu oo


Ninataka Ebeneza, nijenge juu yako,

Ninataka Ebeneza, uwe msingi yangu,

Jiwe langu la pembeni, nakutamani sana,

Jiwe langu la thamani, nakuhitaji sana,

Oo Ebeneza, jiwe langu.


Ninataka maisha yangu, yajengwe juu yako,

NInataka ndoa yangu, ijengwe juu yako baba,

Ndoa zilizojengwa juu yako yahwe, hazivunjiki kamwe,

Nyumba zilizojengwa juu yako yahweh hazivunjiki kamwe,

Ninataka uimbaji wangu baba, ujengwe juu yako,

Maana wewe ni sauti yangu, wewe ni uzima wangu.


Ninataka Ebeneza, nijenge juu yako,

Ninataka Ebeneza, uwe msingi yangu,

Jiwe langu la pembeni, nakutamani sana,

Jiwe langu la thamani, nakuhitaji sana,

Oo Ebeneza, jiwe langu.


Ebeneza lang’a, libanga nangai ya tala,

Ole kidya mape wolo papa ee kati na bomoyi nanga,

Nzambe na kumisio, mokote ko nani nayo,

Bisika nako milele o yahwe, ezali sela makasi nayo.


Ninataka Ebeneza, nijenge juu yako,

Ninataka Ebeneza, uwe msingi yangu,

Jiwe langu la pembeni, nakutamani sana,

Jiwe langu la thamani, nakuhitaji sana,

Oo Ebeneza, jiwe langu.


Ebenezer ni jiwe langu, jiwe langu la msingi,

Mahali nimefika leo, Ni kwa ajili yako ebeneza,

Mawe mengi yako hapa chini ya jua,

kuna dhahabu, kuna almasi Kuna mawe hata sijui majina yake,

Lakini hakutawahi kuwa jiwe kama ebeneza. 




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Ol Tukai part 2

DSCF1684DSCF1686 DSCF1685DSCF1687 DSCF1689 DSCF1690 DSCF1692

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Ol Tukai Art part 1

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,800 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Viva Jazz Viva – Africa’s grandest gathering is now 15

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

South Africa’s largest live music festival, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) celebrates its 15th year when it takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), in March 28-29, 2014. In this commemorative year, the festival will bring together the best local and international artists from the past 15 years.

Referred to as ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’, nearly 60 000 people attended the CTIJF events, free concerts and workshops in 2013. The CTIJF is also billed as the biggest jazz music event in Africa and ranks in the top five best jazz events in the world. More than just the best music and entertainment festival on the continent, CTIJF offers a sophisticated and comprehensive programme that will ensure the legacy of the festival. This programme encompasses a number of different workshops and interventions – everything from talent development to event management training – and continues throughout the year and makes music important, particularly for young South Africans.

CEO of espAfrika, which organises the CTIJF, and Festival Director, Rashid Lombard says the next edition is going to be very special. “Fifteen years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that the festival would have such a massive impact. It’s got its own beat now – and we just love the fact that we are able to keep giving people what they want and to promote jazz and jazz related as a music genre in this country. Surprisingly, jazz is much bigger than people think – it really does have broad appeal as evidenced by the growing ticket sales.”

In fact, South Africa’s live music industry is not very old in the grander scheme of things – only approaching two decades. To have grown so significantly in this time and under increasingly more strenuous economic conditions is yet another reason to celebrate.

One more is that the CTIJF as a 15 year old veteran has also led the way in terms of producing world class live entertainment experiences. While it provides a platform for new and exciting talent, behind the scenes, espAfrika is also sharing its technical experience and helping to shape South Africa as a premier destination for touring international artists. In contributing to the development of highly skilled and professional technical production industry, espAfrika is taking its learnings on the road and sharing this experience with neighbouring African countries as jazz especially ignites interest in live music shows and festivals across the continent.

Continuing to support the power that music has to be a sustainable business contributing to the economy and to overcome all manner of life’s challenges, Patricia De Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town confirmed: “This musical celebration (CTIJF) epitomises what this administration aims to do in building an inclusive city by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds throughout the city and the rest of the country to enjoy the musical talents of local artists and renowned international superstars. The City will continue to support this festival to promote the heritage of jazz music and ensure that it continues to attract large crowds.”

Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr. Paul Mashatile says: “The Cape Town International Jazz Festival continues to provide audiences with an array of the best international and local music, which helps give our artists exposure and unlocks further opportunities for them. The CTIJF also contributes to providing a larger skills base in the creative sector which helps strengthen our sector’s contribution to the economy, by creating much needed work opportunities and the building of sustainable livelihoods.”

And on that note – for reaching 15 years – Viva Jazz Viva!

Japanese Jazz Artist Retraces his Kenyan ‘roots’

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

The Return of Shingo – Real Jazz from Tokyo

Forty (40) years after he first performed, while only aged Seven (7), at Kenya National Theatre Japanese jazz drummer, Shingo Okudaira, returned to the same venue for two (2) special homecoming concerts and he did not disappoint.


The Return of Shingo – Real Jazz from Tokyo. Shingo Okudairo at the Kenya National Theatre where it all began over 40 years ago.

Truly a musical phenomenon, Shingo released his debut album: Maiden Voyage, at the tender age of 11. Then, at the age of 24, he moved to New York to pursue further growth as a jazz musician; and lived there for 19 years, only moving back to Japan in 2010.

Throughout his career, spanning four (4) Decades, Shingo has released six (6) albums: Maiden Voyage (1978), Kilifi (1995), Maconde (1996), Alisema (1998), The Force (2009) and I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (2013).

In this nostalgic concert series dubbed The Return of Shingo – Real Jazz from Tokyo, he also performed at Carnivore Simba Saloon. Shingo & The Force are one of Tokyo’s best Jazz groups but following the Westgate attacks, his main band members—pianist/keys and double bass opted out but their replacement are world class.

Shingo Okudaira, teamed up with Fumio Karashima, who is without doubt one world-renowned and most sought piano/keys player in Asia. Youthful but talented Takashi Sugawa played the Double Bass. These hugely endowed artists featured in the first act that had original numbers written by Shingo and other famous jazz greats like Coltrane etc.


Maestro Fumio Karashima


Youthful but immensely talented Takashi Sugawa

In the second act, Shingo teamed up with Kenya’s own – Umoja Calabash Percussions, that also enabled Shingo to play some of his own original numbers that he composed in Kiswahili and performed over a hundred times but never in done by a Swahili speaker and in front of a Swahili-speaking audience.10


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