Males primarily dominate African jazz; the genre is commonly accepted as music made by skilled men for their matured audiences, in most cases these are classy gentlemen who can afford the most expensive bottles of wine and the finer things in life. Exclusive nightclubs that only play jazz can be found across the African continent, they are known as the “Old boys Clubs” that pretty much describes their target market. However, a few hotshot women such as Christine Kamau have made their mark as jazz musicians in the unkind industry.
During the apartheid and colonial era, vocalists such as Miriam Makeba added their voices to jazz instruments to educate, entertain and inform the masses. Today, Africa is a free continent and that came with access to any genre, of music in the world. The younger Africans are more familiar with American sounds. Even inspiring musicians have chosen to take the route mostly taken by their European counterparts.
Breaking into the jazz industry is not an easy task, which explains why most artists have chosen to do genres like hip-hop. The way they talk, walk, sing, dance and dress is influenced by the Western world. However, fellow African musicians managed to influence one Kenyan instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter, Christine Kamau. While she was attending music auditions in South Africa, she came across African Jazz. She had already established herself in her native country as one of the pioneers of modern jazz.
However, the sounds of the late Bra Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Moses Khumalo changed her perspective of jazz music and motivated her to add more African inspired elements to her music. The Nakura born multi-instrumentalist had made a name for herself at church and local events where she played before taking on the rest of the continent. Kamau was encouraged by her parents to pursue a career in music. Before the age of 12, she had already enrolled to study music.
She went on to learn how to play the trumpet from the Legendary Kagema Gichuhi. As her star rose, she graced stages at various events such as the Blankets and Wine, Jazz under the Stars and the Afro-Jazz concert series among other events. She was also one of the few African musicians to be featured in the BBC African Beats documentary, which profiles some of the best musicians on the continent. Kamau believes her music can unite Africans worldwide.
Subsequently, this explains her reasons for working with a Cameroon music producer Romeo Kouemeni, the Ghanaian jazz guitarist Komla Young and she has shared stages with the likes of UK acid jazz group Incognito. Her willingness to collaborate with different musicians from all walks of life has opened doors for her as well. She was one of the speakers at the Access Music in Africa Conference held in Dakar, Senegal. Her role in uplifting and empowering aspiring musicians saw her gifted with the British Council’s East Africa Mobility.
Through her project Women in Music Concert Series, the jazz sensational has provided many unidentified musicians with a venue to display their talent. If she can inspire them, the same way she was inspired by other great African musicians, soon more female musicians will establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with, in the jazz industry.