“Our strongest point is that we live like brothers. It is the only reason we have managed to stick together for nine years,” says Jack Miguna, Sarabi’s lead guitarist and part-time member of the Gogosimo Band. Back in 2003, the eight boys, aged between nine and eleven, started out as “Sauti za Kwetu”. They got their first break performing at a venue offered by the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA).
This was thanks to George Ndeche, their manager and father figure, who gave them a platform for expressing themselves. “Give any of them traditional sisal skirts and they will dance. They have a good base of traditional music,” says Ndeche. A trip to Vancouver, Canada, in 2006, organized by the UN-HABITAT, opened up the boys to new ideas and helped to mature them as artists. They also picked up different musical instruments to enhance their sound, which features Chakacha, Benga and Ohangla influences.
This year, Sarabi shared a stage in Oslo with renowned jazz musician Anthony Faulkner in an event dubbed “Soul Children”. Despite some measure of international success, Sarabi has yet to make a big break in the local industry. Ndeche feels that this is due to the huge gap existing between upcoming and established acts. “When a candle is used to light another one, it does not lose its light,” says lead vocalist Nelson Mandela. Percussionist Haron Waceke states, “The ultimate dream of Sarabi is to bring social change through music— music revolves around everyday life.’’ The band hopes to reach out to the public through being vocal about its opinions.
Along with Mashariki Choir, Sarabi runs a mentorship programme in Kariobangi, which supports children between the ages of five and 12. “We want to be role models for the underprivileged in society,” adds percussionist Anthony Kimangu. Sarabi is set to release their first album this August.
By Alvin Andrew