This month’s Kigali Jazz Junction was one of firsts;
For starters, it was the first time a West African act was gracing the Jazz Junction stage. Nigerian singer and songwriter Seyi Shay (real names Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua) headlined this month’s session, continuing the trend of Nigerian entertainers that have been flocking to Kigali of late. (Remember Mr. Eazi, Patoranking, Tekno, and Runtown?
It was also the first time for the local musical duo of Charly and Nina at the Jazz Junction. For the first time, it was a ladies only headlining.
Another first was the presence of three different live bands playing on the same night; The Neptunez Band, the Mavuno Band, and Seyi Shay’s own Dynamite Band from Lagos, Nigeria.
When the Nigerian act eventually went on stage, her band and the Neptunez Band teamed up to back her.
At the pre-event press conference at the Kigali Serena Hotel Wednesday morning, the Nigerian singer took time off to remind journalists that her name was pronounced “Sheyi Shay”.
Seyi Shay is not a jazz singer, and admitted as much, but confessed a love for the genre and asked us to join her for a “special jazz rendition”.
The heavy British accent in which she spoke prompted many to dig deeper into her profile. Turns out that she is Nigerian but British-born and raised.
Currently she lives in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, but it’s in the UK that the musician in her first manifested.
She was at one point a part of the girl group, From Above. The group was managed by Beyonce Knowles’ father, Mathew Knowles, of who Seyi Shay speaks so highly:
She describes him as her “mentor and teacher”.
“One thing I learnt being managed by Mathew Knowles was that singing and performing live was always best. So I come from that school, and also, I was part of a gospel choir in my early days. So I came to Nigeria with that live background because not all Nigerian artistes were singing live at that time.”
The night kicked off on a gospel note, with the Mavuno Band from the Mavuno Church. But who said gospel music is not for dancing?
The Mavuno band came with one mission –make people dance in the name of the Lord, and boy did they do it so well. The band opened their set with a funky rendition of Chasing me down, by Israel Houghton, that got almost everyone busy on the floor.
But it is the gospel rendition of Bob Marley’s No woman no cry that got the crowd in overdrive mode, chorusing no Jesus no life along with the band.
After Mavuno it was time for Charly and Nina, who performed for close to an hour before giving way to Seyi Shay.
But sound glitches took some of the shine off their performance after a near-perfect set by the Mavuno Band.
With almost an hour of show time, Charly and Nina performed almost their entire repertoire, from the popular recent hits to the older, less popular songs.
But there was hardly anything jazzy in their delivery, so they will have to work a little harder to impress the hardcore jazz audience should they return to the jazz junction at a future date.
All the way from Kenya, the night’s host, Moses Githinji had kept reminding us that this was a “ladies’ edition’ of the Kigali Jazz Junction, prompting anticipation that perhaps the ladies would come together and duet on stage. That was not the case.
Seyi Shay came on stage at 11:10, just after the MC had announced the headline act for the next jazz junction; the Tanzanian Ali Kiba, who will be performing in Kigali on October 27th.
The poor sound that had marred Charly and Nina’s performance continued right through Seyi Shay’s, with microphone feedback at times making it sound like a rehearsal session.
But performing with two bands coupled with poor sound had its toll on a musician that many in the crowd were hearing about for the first time.
Weekend vibes, her collabo with Ghanian Sarkodie was the most well-received.