An Emotional Return to Nairobi For Etana
By Vincent Libosso – @The Events Kahuna
Etana’s first solo headlined concert on the day the reggae world marks legendary Bob Marley’s death anniversary had a special significance.
Ever since she announced she will be returning to perform in Nairobi as part of her Reggae Forever World tour, the motivation is clear: this was the homecoming Grammy nominee, Etana has been craving for.
The bond between Etana and Nairobi is remarkable considering this is her third performance. Previously, Etana has performed alongside Tarrus Riley at Carnivore and with Richie Spice and Luciano at the KICC grounds. But her third trip holds a significance as her first solo headlined concert backed by homegrown acts in Nairobi.
As we arrive to the Uhuru Gardens venue, Coco Sobo and Rhapcha Sayantist are on stage warming up the revelers even as DJ Teeboy is delivering some classic old school dancehall. The crowd is elated. The breather sees Mcs Philpo and Tallia Oyando pick up alongside DJ Juan,before welcoming a surprise act on stage.
Ghana;s dancehaller EpiXode who jetted into Nairobi a few days ago on a media tour takes the stage with some heavy dancehall freestyles. Sharing their true emotions, Kenya’s mighty reggae band, Gravitti is first on stage.Gravitti acting as the opener bring a slight different vibe. They play a set of their own records and a mash up of popular international reggae hits before paving way for Wyre The Lovechild.
Arguably the most prolific vocalist in present day Kenyan Reggae scene singer/ songwriter Wyre strucks a cord with the masses and like any beautiful melody wins the hearts of the people one song at a time. From his early collaborations under the East Africa Bashment Crew, to his international collabs with Cecile and Alaine, and finally to his classic sing along anthems, Wyre manages to deliver.
Moh Spice Sound System duo, DJ Moh and MC Jushman, alongside Host 96 host, Shix Kapienga are charged with the chance of a lifetimeto play the warm up set before Etana takes the stage. All this time-round, Etana’s band is busy setting up in the dark background. On the side of the stage, Etana’s lovely husband, Andre Morris who also is her manager/director of their independent label Freemind Music rocking an ankara print with jeans, is busy directing the band, Raw Soul Rebels, before walking to the end and signalling Etana.
The build-up to her stage presence is heightened by the instrumental intro of her song, ‘Queen.’ First came her memorable honey coated voice from behind the dark curtains and the verses flowed. She rocked Avido, a young Kenyan designer who has grown in popularity for dressing visiting international acts ankara print jacket, black pants and matching black heels. Her hair combed and laid to the side exposing her well accentuated face.
She walked right to the middle of the stage where her mic stood majestically in wait, paused and smiled at everyone before jumping back into the music. Her music was sweetly serenading, outstanding in quality and versatility.
With a voice that’s rich, robust and saturated in the right kind of buoyancy, on the backdrop of a catalogued roots-reggae bassline and some dancehall, accented by well-placed horns, a breathtaking joyride sets off for us some few minutes past 1am in the morning.
From the treacherous but culturally swaggy garrison community of ‘August Town,’ we journey with Etana’s discrimination woes on ‘Wrong Address.’ She reminds us to keep our heads up high in the face of gossipers through ‘People Talk.’
With ‘Reggae,’ she opens up her spirited approach to communicate her love for this music genre. Etana croons on why we should not be afraid and even takes time to do some rendition of Ginjah and Morgan Heritage.
Anthems to all the man “who really love dem lady”do not miss out tonight. From his ‘Blessing’ collaboration with Albarosie, to the big anthem, ‘My Man,’ Etana authentically brings back the spirit of love.
‘Weakness In Me,’ brings out an emotional opening and for the first time we see her tears as she sings. There is no doubt tears flow in her fans as well. Etana shows off her dancehall attitude with the track ‘ 6 Mins: 21 Secs’ off her Grammy nominated album Reggae Forever, even as she call her fans on stage to teach her some dance moves.
The most delicious facets of her voice resonate with her rendition in honour Bob Marley’s songs in between her set. Teargas The Entertainer, plays on till the wee hours of morning.
Photos: Slum Photography and Amnesty International