IT takes a lot more than playing instruments and one-person up-front singing to make a band. Well, these are the sentiments of the Nairobi-Kenya-based Sarabi band for them, having a different member taking on the lead vocals of their songs, makes a lot of more sense, because it forms “a unit”.
also, this way, they are able to “feed on each other’s energy” better. Now, in reference to the people listening to them, “the music sounds better than listening to the same voice leading on all songs”.
Such remarks were made by members of the band to the ‘Daily News’ recently, during a conversation. In an attempt to make their views clearer, their lead guitarists, Peter Mbau, added “there is a strength in diversity”, which passes through all members and keeps what he calls “the fire burning”.
Mbau also pointed to who they see as the one in the band, who feeds them this energy as the drummer, Benard Odour. In fact, they call him the “heartbeat” of the band, which was formed in 2005.
“When he (Odour) plays low, we all play low and viceversa. Despite he being the shortest in the band he’s the one keeping the grove here. When he is strong and awake, we all have to catch-up and keep-up with him,” Mbau explains.
Now, this also applies to the only lady in the band, christabel Were, a.k.a. Bella. She grewup the only girl surrounded by brothers therefore, got used being surrounded by males, a long time ago.
In fact, she told the ‘Daily News’ being a lady in a band, which plays a type of music focused on equality and social justice, means she has to push herself in front.
That way women and children, who are less privileged, she says can be encouraged when they see her on stage. This newly-styled Sarabi band first emerged last february, at the Sauti za Busara (SzB) music festival in Stone Town, Zanzibar, without their former lead singer, ambasa Mandela.
He had decided to go solo, earlier this year. When in conversation with the ‘Daily News’ he spoke about wanting to do a number of things and felt remaining in the band wouldn’t allow him the freedom he needs to follow this “calling”.
So, the band of now seven young men and one lady, from the eastland slums of Nairobi, have agreed to continue producing a music that is rooted in traditional Kenyan rhythms, such as “Benga”, with a blend of Western sounds.
They’re quite contended continuing with Haron Klaceke on bass together with handling matters as acting Producer, while antony Kimangu, who is influenced by Kenyan traditional drummers, stays on percussions.
That leaves Mbau, who refers to music as being the way he expresses his feelings and show people how to live, as lead guitarist and Odour on drums. Seeing him literally sitting behind the drum-kit playing, makes it easy to believe him when he says he couldn’t think of anything else he would like doing more than playing drums, singing and dancing.
There’s also John Maluni, the eldest in the band, on keyboards, simply saying he was born to play music. On the other hand, the youngest, adam Mwadama a.k.a. Dushman, holds the rhythm guitar line strong, dances and sings just because he loves music.
So, the band has managed to live on, with their name Sarabi, the Kiswahili word for mirage. This confidence in having a band was not only expressed by the Sarabi members but also the Dar es Salaam-based Reggae musician, Innocent N’ganyagwa, who is better known as Ras Inno.
Now, although he doesn’t currently operate with a permanent band, he has fixed views on the relevance of a band. “I operate with a band but it’s not permanent. But with the same particular set of musicians that I use most of the time, to keep the taste of my music the same,” Ras Inno said.
He emphasised the importance for having certain necessary key members of that band, who can keep the “flavour” of that individual’s music intact. even if there are others who are interchanging, there should be four to five members who are always there.
It is these key members that keeps that person’s identification sound the same way. “Now as a solo artist, using different musicians every time, means you may have a better music than before, but it will keep on changing.
So, fans and others who hear your music cannot identify you with a particular type of rhythm and your sound, so it’s good to have a band,” he suggested. The question follows, as to why he doesn’t have a permanent band, bearing in mind he states its good having one.
It’s rather expensive keeping a permanent band. especially, being a Reggae artist, he would not have more than two shows a month. This is not enough, he maintains, to warrant keeping a band.
In such a case, one alternative is for someone to bear the brunt of the costs for keeping that band. One thing came out loud and clear when talking to members of Sarabi and Ras Inno, there is much to be benefitted from being part of a band especially when striving to maintain a musical sound identity.