Eric’s music career kicked first when he and some friends formed an a capella group right out of high school together called Five Alive. The group was a runaway success and developed a cult-like following in Nairobi. When the group disbanded in 1997, Ericwent on to join the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston-USA, where he majored in Songwriting and Record Engineering.
The Sound/Discography: Eric’s music is a blend of Kenyan Benga rhythm and East African guitars, with some modern harmony. But what makes him one of the most well loved musicians in Kenya is the political consciousness of his music. One of his earliest compositions “Kenya Only ” – later renamed “Daima” became and unofficial anthem and critical call to unity during several crises in Kenya. Through-out the 2007 post election violence every radio and television station adopted the song as call for peace. Eric again topped the charts with his release of ‘Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo‘ in 2001, a song that launched his crusade against corruption in the country and its success was a testament for his ability to have his finger firmly on the public pulse.
Transparency International invited him to be and ambassador and in 2001, Africa Almanac.com listed him amongst the top 100 Africans of the year 2000, which included high profile names such as Nelson Mandela, Joseph Kabila, Yash Pal Ghai, Baaba Maal and Ousmane Sembene. So provocative in its day was the song that the the Moi government quietly banned it on the government-run national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, but through the private media stations the song and its music video propelled Eric to countrywide fame. The song also earned him a prestigious KORA nomination for Best East African Artist, which he won.
His first record, Sawa Sawa, released in 2001 remains one of the highest selling solo albums in the country. In writing the record Eric was making a decided attempt to break away from the all too common American influences in new African music. The result was a record which won critical and popular acclaim. His adaptation of a Kikuyu folk tune ‘Ritwa Riaku’ was added to the playlist of every radio station in the nation, as was the title track track “Sawa Sawa”, which 10 years down the line, still receives regular airplay.
Eric’s Second Album – “Twende Twende” was released in 2006 and displayed the musical maturity that comes from a full-time career in the music industry. The title track featured a collaboration with the legendary Zimbabwean Musician Oliver Mtukudzi who had been a long-term musical influence of Eric’s. The popular tune was adopted by the telcom company Orange to mark their entry into the Kenyan market. Eric’s Twende Twende album bagged 3 awards in Kenya’s Kisima Awards : Best Music Video, Best Afro-Fusion Artist and Best Song.
Eric’s much anticipated 3rd album has been due for release since 2008 but he has pulled it back into the studio twice, determined to put out a record that completely reflects what it is he wants to say – musically and lyrically at that time. The album is now slated for release in April 2011.
Live Performances, Festivals and International Performances: Eric has often been credited with re-energizing an ailing live music scene in Nairobi when he started playing weekly gigs first at Clubb Sound and later the famous Thursday nights at Club Afrique. In a media that was rapidly becoming obsessed with “celebrity culture”, Eric broke away from the norm and made it ‘OK’ as a musician to be accessible and readily available to audiences with no fear of becoming “played out”. The weekly gigs became prominent feature of the entertainment scene and an available stage for many musicians to introduce themselves to audiences.
An accomplished stage musician, Eric has also appeared on African and global stages from Europe to the US and beyond putting East Africa on the map as a space to look to for dynamic performers.
Peace Initiatives and Social Responsibility Work: In light of the 2007 General Elections, Eric Wainaina spearheaded Umoja Pamoja : an initiative that aimed to get Kenyans, more specifically the youth to first of all vote, and to do so peacefully and responsibly. The campaign culminated dramatically in an event where a human-chain was formed around Parliament Building in a demonstration of unity and purpose.
Eric has held numerous social ambassador ships and has worked with dozens of development agencies as an Advocate of their work. This year Eric is committed to the following ambassadorships: UN Messenger of Non Violence, UN MDG Messenger, The UUNET Earwalk Ambassador, and Chair of the Board – S.A.F.E..
Cess Karimi started out as a music producer at Music Technology Academy, and then went on to work on Kenya’s first animated series for children, Tinga Tinga Tales made for BBC’s Children Network and the Disney Channel as a post-production producer. She then decided to branch out into events working as a project manager for several entertainment houses. Karimi went to work for Homeboyz Entertainment as a Studio manager for Homeboyz Studios and a Talent and Stage Manager for Value Added Talent (VAT), an associate company for Homeboyz, managing all talents signed to VAT and those with projects with VAT. She left Homeboyz to focus on her personal projects which included social work, events and managing artists.
Karimi studied Psychology in university and as much as she loves music and entertainment, her heart has a place for others so she decided to mix social work and entertainment by working with Kibera’s CBO’s: GYFF and FAME by supporting their events by bringing them various established acts at no charge to perform at their events, inspire and encourage upcoming artists.
David Freeman Coleman holds a B.Mus degree in piano performance and theory/composition from Boston University and an M.A. in music composition from Tufts University. Joining the Dana Hall faculty in 2001, David has been choral directing for 25 years, previously teaching at Beaver Country Day School, the Walnut Hill School, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and the Boston Conservatory. He is a member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the Massachusetts Music Teachers Association (MMTA), and the American Society of Composers and Arrangers (ASCAP). He has led music workshops in gospel music for the ACDA and for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference.Actively involved in theater and gospel music throughout New England, David has served as associate music director and rehearsal pianist for productions at the American Repertory Theater, including the 2012 Tony Award-winning production ofThe Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. With performances at the House of Blues, the Wang Center, and Symphony Hall, he also has experience working with choirs for Bobby McFerrin, Patti Labelle, Phish, and Academy Award Nominee Ryan Gosling.David is also currently the director of the 200-voice Tufts University Third Day Gospel Choir, and has also directed choirs for Boston University, the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Boston Community Choir, which performs annually with the Boston Pops. In 2010, BBC World News America featured David in their “First Person” series which was broadcast to 300 million people worldwide. Recognized by Boston musicians for his work in gospel music, David was the 2007 recipient of the Thomas A. Dorsey Award from the New England Conservatory.An active songwriter and composer, he has recorded 2 CD’s of songs as a solo artist, and he founded the gospel ensemble Confirmation, which since 1999 has recorded 5 CD’s of his original songs, all available on nimbit.com, iTunes and amazon.com. In 2012, David received awards for Best Male Gospel Artist, Best Gospel Producer, and Best Gospel CD at the New England Urban Music Awards.Performances with the Dana Hall Chamber Singers worldwide, he has led the ensemble on tours in Austria, Greece, Italy, and here at home throughout Boston. In 2012, they won 1st place in the National Association of Boarding Schools 1stAnnual A Capella competition in Washington D.C., and for 7 consecutive years they have been invited to sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park before Red Sox games.
For the past 20 years, Nathan Sabanayagam has been a prominent drummer in the reggae and world beat music scenes. He has had the opportunity to study, record and perform with some of reggae’s foundation drummers including: Lloyd Knibb, Winston Grennan, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Sly Dunbar, Santa Davis and Style Scott. He has performed and recorded with Jamaican artists Barrington Levy, Jr. Reid, Ken Boothe, Kiddus I, Bob Andy, Jimmy Riley, The Congos, and The Viceroys; Ethiopian artists Haile Roots, Dallol, Theodros Tadesse; and American bands including The Toasters, Gizzae and 10ft. Ganja Plant.
In 2003, he earned a B.M. in Music Synthesis with honors from the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Upon completion of his degree, Nathan was recruited by master guitarist/producer Earl “Chinna” Smith to upgrade his home recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica. For the next 6 years, Nathan split his time between Boston and Kingston, producing, recording and drumming with some of Jamaica’s finest musicians including: Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Jackie Jackson, Chris Meredith, Robbie Lyn, Stephen Stewart, Winston “Bopee” Bowen, Johnny “Dizzy” Moore and Cedric IM Brooks. Out of this invaluable experience was born the independent record label Naya Records.
Currently, Nathan has finished a compilation album of his original riddims in which he produced and co-wrote songs with: Errol Dunkley, Johnny Clarke, Frankie Paul, Big Youth, Kiddus I, Luciano and Mikey General. He also digitized, mixed, mastered and dubbed an original 2” reel from the famous Channel One studio in Jamaica, featuring the late acclaimed singer Lloyd Robinson. The 1984 recording also included band members Sly and Robbie, Robbie Lyn, Bopee Bowen and Willie Lindo. In addition to his own releases, Nathan has teamed up with Peacetones®, an artist legal rights empowerment label, to produce the debut album “Biyografi Mwen” for singer songwriter Wanito. The recording brought much success to the Haitian artist, taking him from obscurity to international acclaim.