Alpha Blondy at Koroga Festival Concert Review
Words: Embukane Libosso
Photography by The Koroga Festival
From the atmosphere at The Two Rivers Mall, it’s unclear what we should expect but we are here for the Koroga Festival grit 27 editions later!
In the crystal clear Sunday afternoon Nairobi sky, market vendors shift through their rails and sweet smoke fills the air, as we make our way to the 27th One Love Edition of Koroga Festival. The Lovechild, Wyre backed by the sensational Gravitti Band has already left the stage and there is all this talk about how hype his set was.
We are damned for missing out but we are excited to see another Kenyan Reggae and Dancehall star, Redsan takes the stage. We were privileged to catch him on his Koroga Festival band rehearsals prior to this day and we were blown away. As we try to make our way to the main stage, Koroga Festival is, supposedly, a seated affair. But as soon as the amazing dancers and Swahili Jazz Band, Redsan’s backing band, takes the stage, the entire dome rises. By the time the tall and energetic Redsan himself appears, sauntering on stage, the aisles are busy with everyone scrambling to get a piece of the action.
His set is a perfect blend of his decade plus past, present and future journey, employing switching effortlessly from Dancehall to Reggae from his sing along tunes from back in the days to his latest hits from his The Baddest Album. His melody, hooks and dance moves leave quite an impression.
The quirky stage banters and a surprise welcome of fellow pop star, Timmy Tdat, Redsan performance is a celebratory concert. His Koroga Festival debut, the ladies howl aside, is uniquely pretty festive itself.
Alpha Blondy’s debut performance in Kenya was energetic, crowd-pleasing and almost a perfect storybook ending for Koroga Festival on Sunday night. The Solar System Band with its tiers of brass players, keyboards and percussion, and a couple of excellent female dancers and backing singers, are first to take the stage.
First was Blondy’s voice, which marks him out as unmistakably before the impossibly-energetic 66-year-old singer took the stage. The band plays with such energy that at one point it felt like a rock ‘n’ roll concert.
His music is full of message and the banter in between well orchestrated. Songs like Jerusalem, Brigadier Sabari and Cocody Rock had the full dome singing as one, joining the star in a powerful collective heartbeat, blended with the mandatory reggae two-step, pointing in the air and singing along to Blondy’s stirring political manifestos, with gusto to spare.
Standing up for peace in Africa and up against terrorism, wondering why one would want to kill another in the name of God, Alpha Blondy several times emphasized unity, and demonstrated respect and humility.
His ability to share the love he received from his fans while he performed on stage was phenomenal. He would reach out and touch your hand, give you a high five, jump, dance, bend down, run even off stage and come back on stage to take a selfie with you, all this while singing his songs. He even picked up this little boy from the crowd and got him on stage.
The downside? Sadly, there were a couple of sound issues during the DJ sets but all that was quickly forgotten thanks to the great vibes.
Seeing Alpha Blondy perform for the very first time in Nairobi Kenya was amazing. His connection holds true decades later.