Kachumbari Seven
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Kachumbari Seven

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"Because the Mix is Hot, it Lights My Fire"



Play – something we do in childhood, whoever, whatever we are, without
thinking about it. Kachumbari 7, a mixed group of musicians in every
sense of that word – remind us of what it is to be little again with
the world at our fingertips. Although all of them are experienced
professionals, they go right back to basics. A child thumps a stick
against the wall, makes a sound with its voice, experiments all the
time with what noise and rhythm are and how they eventually get
transformed into music. Thus the group’s first CD will appeal not only
to adults but to children and to those of us who never wanted to grow
up anyway.

The group performed to a full house at Nairobi’s Alliance Francaise on
March 7, many enticed along by the poster for the concert and CD which
is nothing short of brilliant. For those of us of a certain age, the
reference to the famous Beatles cover where the four Liverpuddlians
traverse Abbey Road in London on their way to the recording studios
will be clear; to the rest, the picture of seven strangely costumed
individuals crossing a deserted Moi Avenue in a single line with their
instruments in front of an unusually patient matatu will be very
memorable. Incidentally, the Father Christmassy-looking character
crossing the road in unseasonably warm and rather exotic clothes is in
fact Dominic Ogari pretending to be that boy genius Wolfgang Amadeus
An advertisement behind shows the absent drummer Obuya Owino who does
not normally surface at 7 am on any Sunday, not even to go to church,
being, like so many animals, a creature of the night. So the seven are
in fact eight.

The whole mixture is irresistible, captured with limpidity on the CD;
the list of instruments played is too long to mention but each
musician has a formidable repertoire not least Karimi Mugambi whose
daytime job is as a music lawyer. (One day musicians may make a living
just doing what they were destined to do….) Kirit Pattni plays bamboo
flutes, claves,and Indian finger cymbals whilst Prasad Velnakar is a
master of the Tabla, the gourd drum and the padhant. Sally Clark plays
double bass and cello and the dreadlocked Mr Owino is a virtuoso of
the Djembe, congas, percussion and utterly riveting to watch. One
beauty of a live concert is to see the way musicians dance with their
instruments: Sally Clark leans her head wistfully against the electric
bass as if straining to hear what it is telling her, whilst Velankar’s
hands, like Owino’s, choreograph a furious dance in themselves, each
part playing a role – fingers, heels, flat of the hand and side.
Director Jim Pywell is quite simply a latter-day Mozart – a musical
phenomenon who could lure music out of a concrete wall. He weaves the
evening together, demonstrating the versatility of the group and its
collective imagination:

“The word kachumbari comes from the name of the relish made from
tomatoes, onions, coriander and chillies. The number seven has many
associations: the seven colours of the rainbow, the seven musical
notes of the Indian Rag and the European scale, the seven continents
of the world, the seven ages of man……The members of Kuchmabari Seven
originate from seven places: Nairobi, Kisumu, Mumbai, London, Malindi,
Hull and Kisii. Kachumbari Seven formed in 2006 for the Nairobi Samosa
Festival” the insert in the CD tells us.

Thus the music derives from every imaginable source: tongue twisters
are given a new life in “Cha@t” in which a garden bird tries to learn
the many language of Nairobi but ends up twisting his tongue in so
many knots. It may not be common knowledge but a recently unearthed
manuscript during an early safari has been brought to life
commemorating the maestro’s forgotten trip to Nairobi in 1777. Jim
Pywell’s delectable “Hippo” sets a poem by a British poet to music – a
jingle in which the proud owner of the animal discovers to his horror
that it is in fact a Hippopotamissis, putting a wholly different cast
on things. “Melody in Rag Yaman” conjures up a balmy night in India or
a certain place on the Indian Ocean with its haunting, lilting tune.
In each number the melody is lifted by the accompaniment, the response
echoing and mimicking, the effect always being very light and
humorous. They enjoy turning everything on its head: in “Githurai to
Galway”, an Irish backpacker meets a beautiful girl on River Road
(where else?) and tells her about his well-thatched house and cows
back home. That sense of play and fun is ever-present.

And yet these are skilled musicians with a serious intent: to show
that the multiplicity of ethnicities that make up this country can
come together and play, sharing their diverse sounds and rhythms to
create something quite fresh and original. What they teach you is
simply to listen to everything around you: Pywell does an admirable
imitation of the robin chat’s song which inspired “Cha@t.” Imagine if
we all actually listened to each other and to the music that surrounds
us every minute of the day, (not all of it desirable.) Nothing they do
is predictable. Next time I expect they might even come up with the
Eighth Matatu Symphony of the Eternal Nairobi Traffic Jam (with
apologies to Gustav Mahler.) After all, Gerard Hoffnung composed a
musical work for vacuum cleaners, didn’t he?
- The East African Magazine (Nation Media)

"Detailed Band Biography"

The name Kachumbari Seven came from two ideas. Kachumbari (a slightly spicy mixed salad) is the best description of the music, because when you create a salad from different ingredients, their flavours blend together but you can still taste the original flavours of each separate ingredient. The music is not quite the same as “fusion” - a cake where one flavour dominates, or where you just taste the cake (ie not separate flavours of eggs, butter, flour and sugar). The number Seven was chosen because for many people it is a magical number with many different associations; the seven colours of the rainbow, seven notes of the Indian and European classical music scales, the seven wonders of the world, seven continents, the seven days of the week, and so on.

It is the group’s belief that the most discerning world music audiences are no longer content to be limited to authentic traditional gurus, Afro-fusion or westernised Afropop, and that they are now looking for freshness and innovation too.

The pathway which led to Kachumbari Seven’s sell-out concert at the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi in March 2009, at which they launched their debut studio album Mozart on Moi Avenue, is a pathway that many musical groups might have followed – but with a difference, and some happy coincidences.

They have travelled this far purely on the strength of their own beliefs – the importance of people learning to make music together regardless of any barriers that could stand in the way, such as socio-economic background, nationality, or style of musical training.

Kachumbari Seven did not set out with commercial intentions, and yet they are no strangers to large audiences, having performed to an audience of 4000 at the Safaricom Classical Fusion concert in April 2009. There has been no funding for the group’s musical development; the debut album was recorded and produced on a shoestring budget and by pulling in favours.

Against the background of one of Kenya’s most difficult periods since independence, Kachumbari Seven have demonstrated the patience and tenacity to explore fresh musical territories without selling out to popular culture. Their sheer joy in playing music together comes across ever more strikingly in each successive performance – and that is what appeals to their growing audience – which, incidentally, transcends skin colour and other barriers in the same way that the band’s membership does.

Every new creation by the group makes a conscious attempt to include at least one element from each of the three continents that the musicians represent. In some songs the mix is more obvious than in others, but there is always a fresh way of looking at things. Githurai to Galway sets a popular Kikuyu wedding song in the style of an Irish ballad – but in one of the instrumental pieces, Five Sheep, it is the original rhythm of the same Kikuyu song which forms the accompaniment to a completely different melody, infused with both European and Indian character. Humour and fun play a role too. In Hippo, an old British animal poem is given a contemporary multi-cultural and rather tongue-in-cheek treatment; suburban garden birdsong of Nairobi gave rise to the main musical theme of Cha@t, which also generated the idea of rapping with tongue-twisters from various languages spoken within the group.

So how did it all begin? The Kenyan magazine Awaaz set up an arts festival in 2006 called Samosa, at which dancer Amrik Heyer was enlisted to create a music and dance piece with live musicians. A chance meeting at a friend’s barbecue brought together Amrik with some musicians from the UK, and through various networks (musicians tend to know one another) a small but diverse group came together for a series of experimental workshops. Between them, they represented North Indian classical and folk traditions, the European classical tradition, the English folk tradition, and African music tradition from parts of Kenya and beyond, all of which began to weave together through a complicated process. The discovery that they had found ways to play together encouraged them to continue after the festival, and Kachumbari Seven were born.

From 2007 the group began building up a profile in Kenya, after performing at the World Social Forum, and were invited to perform at the Goethe Institute’s “Encounters” concert series. This attracted interest from the BBC World Service, and following an interview on the Network Africa programme in June 2008, Kachumbari Seven began recording an album of the repertoire they had developed during the first two years.

The Band Members

Kirrit Pattni
born in Nairobi (his grandfather was a singer of Indian devotional music who came to Kenya in 1935)
Kirrit plays the Indian bamboo flute or bansuri
learnt in England with the guru Basharat Khan
usually plays North Indian Classical or Devotional music

Obuya Owino
born in Nairobi (parents from Western Kenya)
plays African percussion
has been playing music for over 10 years
has played with many Kenyan bands including Talking Drums, Radi, Kikwetu, Kenya Dig It, and Zingaro

Jim Pywell
born in London, first came to Kenya in 1990 to work at Starehe Boys’ Centre
plays the bassoon, melodica and percussion – started music at the age of 5
is a published composer of wind band music
is trained in classical music performance but prefers improvisation
has performed in Burundi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Spain as well as the UK
played on Suzanna Owiyo’s “Yamo Kudho” album
taught at Kenyatta University 2003 – 2007

Raymond Mackenzie
born in Malindi
plays the kiringongo and coastal drums
is the curator of Vidzo Cultural Centre near Malindi
has played in several Kenyan bands including Zikiya Band
teaches at Kenyatta University

Sally Ann Clark
born in Yorkshire, England
took up playing the double bass because the teacher said it would fit in her dad’s car
plays classical music with the Nairobi Orchestra but also loves improvising
came to Kenya in 2003 and teaches music at an international high school
is keen on rollerblading

Dominic Ogari
born near Kisii
plays the obokano and sings kisii traditional music
has been playing music for 20 years and has won national awards
worked at Bomas of Kenya for 4 years
has performed in Turkey and Finland with Kenyan bands
also plays in Amaki Ngoma and teaches at Kenyatta University

Prasad Velankar
born in India; mother a singer, father an award-winning stage actor
started learning tabla aged 10; first appeared on stage at the age of 14
has a gold medal to go with his music degree from Lucknow University
took advanced tabla training with Ustad Allarakha Khan
came to Nairobi in 2006
is also an engineer in the building industry

Corinne Towett
born in Nairobi, into a family of artists and musicians
took up interest in music at the age of 10 and began learning piano
has won awards for violin playing, piano playing and choir conducting
sings in the Nairobi Chamber Chorus
studies at Kenyatta University – having given up a computer science degree to pursue her true calling in music
has toured to Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, the USA and Canada
conducts a ladies’ choir and works as an accompanist at church

Karimi Mugambi

Nyakio Munyinyi

Kachumbari Seven performances to date:

Samosa Festival (GoDown Arts Centre)
Kenya Music Week (Sarit Expo Centre)

The World Social Forum (Kasarani)
Nairobi Arboretum Centenary Celebrations
The Pavement Restaurant

Goethe Institut “Encounters” Concert Series
BBC World Service broadcast on “Network Africa” programme
Capital FM radio broadcast on “Classics Hour”
Rusty Nail Restaurant
Visa Oshwal Auditorium “Small World Festival” sponsored by Capital FM
Oshwal Youth League Trade Fair Launch
Safaricom “One-Com” Launch (Serena Hotel)
Samosa Festival 2008 (Acapulco Restaurant)
Orange iPhone Launch (Wilson Airport)
Nairobi Revue

Kijani Kenya International Festival
Blankets & Wine Festival
Radio France interview in “Bonjour Culture” Programme
Capital FM interview on “Smooth Classics”
CD Launch Concert for “Mozart on Moi Avenue” at Alliance Francaise Nairobi
Feature TV appearance on M-Net’s “Africa Rising” magazine programme
Safaricom Classical Fusion Concert at Impala Club Grounds
Standard Chartered Bank Client Promotion (Serena Hotel)
TV appearance on KTN Artscene


Press review from The East African available at:

To see an introductory video please visit:

To see the M-Net “Africa Rising” video please visit:

Mozart on Moi Avenue CD available from:
CD Baby (USA) http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kachumbariseven
CD Unsigned (UK) http://www.cdunsigned.com/cd.php?products_id=445

To hear more MP3 sound recordings please go to:

Band email / fan mailing list: kachumbariseven@gmail.com

Booking contact: Jim Pywell, Musical Director jmpmusic2000@yahoo.co.uk +254 721 941 912
- Kachumbari Seven


K7CD001 Special Edition Preview CD; December 2008 (5 tracks). Released on own label.

K7CD002 Mozart on Moi Avenue; March 2009 (full album of 11 tracks, total playing time 53:09). Released on own label. Available on iTunes, Amazon, Cd Baby etc.



Kachumbari Seven formed in 2006. After performing at the World Social Forum, they were invited to perform at the Goethe Institute. This attracted interest from the BBC World Service, and following an interview on the Network Africa programme in June 2008, Kachumbari Seven recorded their album ‘Mozart on Moi Avenue’.

Kachumbari Seven explore fresh and unique musical territories. Their sheer joy in playing music together comes across ever more strikingly in each successive performance – and that is what appeals to their growing audience – which, incidentally, transcends cultural background and other barriers in the same way that the band’s membership does.