One of the crucial enduring tales of up to date Kenyan music can be celebrated this weekend because the legendary band Them Mushrooms marks its fiftieth anniversary.
Fittingly the live performance that honours the band that has put Kenya on the world music map is on the eve of Jamhuri Day on the Carnivore, Simba Saloon, the venue the place they created a large affect because the resident band within the late Eighties.
“We’ve got been constructing this model for 5 a long time and so it is a large event,” says John Katana Harrison, who collectively together with his 4 brothers, Teddy, Billy, George and Dennis, based the group in Mombasa in 1972.
“Given the way in which the music trade goes, it’s a milestone to have the ability to have a good time 50 years of repeatedly making music as a band,” he says.
“This could give hope to younger musicians that in case you are constant and disciplined then you can also construct your legacy.”
Their golden jubilee started with the Hakuna Matata tour in July with sold-out performances in London and Birmingham through the Commonwealth Video games.
One of many spin-offs of the celebrations is a few of their timeless anthems, together with the globally famend Jambo Bwana and the chakacha favorite, Ndogo Ndogo, being reimagined and rereleased by a brand new technology of producers and artists.
“We’ve got given producers and DJs, and from Kenya and the UK, the liberty to decide on their favourites from our catalogue and to be artistic with the music in a method that appeals to their technology,” says Mr Katana.
The band’s important assortment, from Jambo Bwana to Nyambura, and the Zilizopendwa hits like Si Nguo and Wazee Wakatike, are additionally accessible to stream on the Spotify playlist That is Them Mushrooms.
Whereas Mr Katana, who’s the keyboardist and vocalist and guitarist Billy Sarro Harrison are the one survivors from the unique lineup of the band, the baton is already being handed on to the subsequent technology of the household — Katana’s son Kalume Katana Harrison, having joined the band taking part in the saxophone, instead of his uncle Teddy, and clarinet.
The weekend’s live performance will even function performances by musicians who’ve been members of the band up to now like saxophonist Juma Tutu, and the Pressmen Band of Msenangu fame.
In response to Mr Katana, this weekend can be a celebration of the band and the followers who’ve enabled them to realize this milestone.
“I nonetheless keep in mind the primary time Jambo Bwana was performed on the Voice of Kenya radio (now KBC) in 1980. That was the start of a dream come true.”
The band launched into their first worldwide tour in 1983 taking part in within the Center East and onwards to Germany the place they met Boney M producer Frank Farian (Boney M launched a model of Jambo Bwana that very same 12 months).
In 1987 Them Mushrooms made their boldest profession transfer, relocating from the resort circuit on the coast to Nairobi.
“We had reached our ceiling in Mombasa and so after we heard that Martin Dunford (of the Carnivore) was scouting for bands we jumped on the alternative,” says Mr Katana.
The band changed the Congolese outfit Vundumuna, which had been the resident band on the Carnivore and had constructed a loyal rhumba-loving fanbase.
Them Mushrooms ultimately attracted their crowd with their signature fashion that mixed rhumba, reggae and funk with chakacha and different coastal beats.
These moments had been captured on the album On the Carnivore in 1987 which included the catchy sing-along Akumu Nyar Kisumu.
“Our music has developed from reggae to chakacha, benga fused with the Giriama conventional mwanzele, which we known as Nzele,” explains Mr Katana.
“In the present day, we have now simply settled on Afro-fusion as a result of the sound is a potpourri of African rhythms music with influences from everywhere in the world.”
Within the Nineties they opened Them Mushrooms Sound Lab in Nairobi the place skills from East and Central Africa got here to file their music.
“We did collaborations and recorded artistes from Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia,” recollects Mr Katana.
“We additionally revived the careers of Kenyan veterans like John Nzenze and Fundi Konde via the Zilizopendwa albums in 1991 and 1992.”
“The proposal to file the Kenyan oldies got here from my brother Billy as we had been in search of methods of countering the wave of South African music that had flooded the Kenyan airwaves on the time,” he says.
These renditions are among the hottest songs of their efficiency repertoire.
Reflecting on the transformation that the music enterprise has undergone, Mr Katana says because of social media the present technology of artists has to deal with stress from followers to launch new songs, so the shelf lifetime of their music could be very quick.
“Whereas streaming platforms pay comparatively small sums to the artists, the benefit is that we have now a chance to get our music to all corners of the world,” he says.