23 June, 2013

There's music in the air

One of the worries I had when I left Paris to come to Nairobi, was that the musical scene in Nairobi might not be as vibrant as that of the French capital. I am very happy to have been proved wrong. This past week has been a musical marathon, the more delightful as I was just enjoying it as a spectator.

Last Sunday the Nairobi Orchestra gave a concert celebrating 50 years of independence. It featured a Wagner opera overture, the first movement of an intricate Mozart Sinfonia, and the world première of an uplifting piece by Kenyan composer Njane Mugambi depicting the parallel ordeals of building the Mombasa-Uganda railway on one hand and the Kenyan nation on the other. The highlight of the show for me was Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Given that the orchestra is composed of mainly amateur musicians, and that some instrumental sections are rather depleted for lack of available players in Kenya, they gave a fine rendition of the famous work.

(Monday was a musical break in the week although I did play an hour of piano.)

Tuesday evening Christian and Claire Turner invited me along with other of their musical friends to their residence for a private recital by British pianist Anthony Peebles. It was a delightful evening of romantic piano music: Brahms, Schumann, Liszt, Chopin. The Turners' cook had also prepared finger food so our stomachs would not rumble while our ears enjoyed the music.

On Wednesday I spent the evening searching for music for the next concert of the Greenwood Singers. We are still discussing what we will be singing but a consensus seems to emerge that this group is not just about rehearsing good music; we also want to keep inviting each other to dinner on rehearsal evenings and keep having fun. All that is fine with me and I really look forward to September when we start singing again after the Nairobi winter break.

Thursday was adventure night as I ventured out and got lost in the Industrial Area of town. I was looking for Choices Pub and Restaurant where Thursday night is live music night: live jazz, blues, rock, soul every week. When I finally found the bar, I discovered a medium-sized room with lots of snug corners for groups of friends to sit in, a large selection of drinks, and a centre stage for the band. This Thursday featured the acoustic string trio Kabon who delighted the audience with their folk-blues interpretations of Western and African standards.

Finally, Friday evening - day of the Fête de la musique in France and in many countries all over the world - I went to a fund raising concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya. This was a black-tie-and-evening-dress event where everything we ate and drank was charged. The small audience got to see these young promising players perform some very challenging pieces. We saw that they could also improvize and dance while playing African rythms and harmony. We got to mingle with the musicians during the dinner interval so as to learn more about the challenges of training young Kenyan musicians to classical music and how the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya is striving to reach that goal. All the proceeds of the evening will go to the orchestra so as to buy instruments for these young musicians and pay for the travel of trainers coming from abroad to teach Kenyans how to play some of the rare instruments that actually have no local teachers in the country. The next public concert of the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya is on Sunday 14 July at Strathmore Business School in Nairobi. I think it is really worth while to go support these promising young musicians.

Up above my head
Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, Chordant

20 June, 2013

Together - we will learn and teach

At the mosque at Bani
To find out what I have learned from my first trip to Senegal, read here.

Go West
Pet shop boys, Very, Capitol

Photo: Rita Willaert

14 June, 2013

A new fantastic point of view

To discover how boring numbers can become fascinating stories, read on here.

A whole new world
Music from the original motion picture Aladdin, Walt Disney video

Photo: eye/see

12 June, 2013

Medley: You are not alone - We are the champions - How can I tell?

Read about my impressions after working a whole week on innovation systems in agricultural development here.

You are not alone
Michael Jackson, The essential Michael Jackson, Epic/Legacy

We are the champions
Queen, Greatest hits, Hollywood records

The shoop shoop song (it's in his kiss)
Cher, If I could turn back time - Cher's greatest hits, Geffen

Photo: Cody Hoffman

05 June, 2013

Step by step, ooh baby, gonna get to you

Read more about how I survived organizing a strategic meeting of over 200 people and see a recent picture of me here.

Step by step
New kids on the block, Step by step, Sony

Photo: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet

01 June, 2013

Es war um 1780 und es war in Wien

I sang last night with the Greenwood Singers, the small vocal ensemble I have joined recently.

Christian Turner and his wife Claire were very kind to host our choral soirée in their residence for a few of our friends. A small audience of 58 fit snuggly into their living room. There was just enough space left for the 13 choir singers, a small orchestral ensemble around the piano and our conductor Duncan Wambugu.

In line with the general practice of the choir, the singers provided food to their guests in the form of home-made cocktail niblets, cheese and crackers, fruit. One of us had the great idea of producing a rich chocolate-and-walnut brownie to give us energy before singing. There were even scones with cream and strawberry jam to recover strength after the concert.

We sang a few Renaissance and baroque motets in the first half. There was also a lovely Bach sonata played by flautist Claire Hollis and pianist James Laight. In the second half we sang the Coronation Mass by Mozart.

Judging by the genuine sparkle in the eyes of the audience and their smiles, I think we put on a good show. The content of the donation bowl collected after the concert was also witness to the audience's pleasure. The donations will be shared by the Turning Point Trust and the Kenyan micro-finance project Kipepeo.

Two of my guests, who do not know each other, particularly pleased me by telling me they felt privileged to have heard this music in such an intimate setting. Indeed, it is one that is very close to the original setting of music making in the 18th century when professional musicians would perform to the private enjoyment of their sponsors and their guests. In our day and age of mass entertainment when football stadiums are filled up to watch large-scale productions of operas and symphonic works, I now feel just as privileged to have been able to endulge in the simple but exclusive pleasure of performing chamber music in a 'chamber' setting.

Rock me Amadeus
Falco, Falco 3, Gig Records Germany

Photo: The Municipal Archives of Trondheim