Auntie Flo & Esa – Highlife World Series: Kenya – Highlife

"driving, incessant beats and mesmerising guitar riffs"

Following the success of Highlife’s Cuban influenced and produced first entry into their ‘World Series’ Esa headed out to Kenya to team up with local musicians and producers to bring the much anticipated second instalment.

The story behind the release is epic in itself, he joined up with Santuri (an East African music collective) for the Rift Valley Festival to develop a concept of using pop up studios and making tracks with musicians playing at the festival. They invited a Nyatiti (traditional Kenyan stringed instrument) player named Makadem to develop the hooks and lyrics, while Esa and Ambrose Akula Akwabi worked on the rhythm tracks. The result is ‘Salaam’ an infectiously groovy song with lilting soft layers of lyrics and beautiful percussion work. It was later spun out into a forty-minute live jam on stage at the festival proper.

Sarabi, one of the hottest young bands in Kenya, dropped by before their performance at the festival that night. They laid down drum patterns, worked out guitar parts and the lyrics to what would become ‘Koko’s Vibration’ all in only a couple of hours. Led by a driving, incessant beat and mesmerising guitar riffs it is a stunning piece of work that rises and falls both dynamically and emotionally.

Back in Nairobi a month later Sarabi returned to another Santuri Project to record “Fire”, the lyrics of which denounce the tribalism and corruption that is choking Kenya’s growth. Sam Jones from Santuri’s studio is on the mix and it is another quality song, with layers of vocals working in harmony in a hypnotic fashion.

Highlife have a winning formula here, the next stop in their series is Uganda.


BY Pete Edmonston
LINKSEsa WIlliams