In Summary
  • Music for us is a blessing. I get to create, to speak on what lies deep within music as well as be creative.
  • If I cannot express it through words, I put it through music. It’s a form of communication, service to humanity and power, far from it being a source of income.

A year and a half ago, Mokua Rabai a saxophonist, Victor Kinama a trombonist and Mackinlay Musembi a multi-instrumentalist, started the Nairobi Horns Project. Down the line, they have shown great promise and are one of the country’s finest jazz bands. They met with Karen Muriuki and shared their story.

How did it all start for the band?

Nairobi Horns Project started as a vision for the ‘horn section’ to be commercially viable. Mackinlay was the brainchild. He had done Coke Studio, and so had I, so we figured: ‘why not have a horn section for hire?’


Who makes up your band?

We have a rhythm section. George Nyoro on keys, Moiza Basinze on bass, Amani Baya on drums, Jack Muguna on guitar and Kasiva Mutua on percussions.


How long has the band been together?

We’ve been active for almost one and a half years.


How did the name Nairobi Horns Project come about?

We wanted to be relevant, as well as have a sound of where we come from, which is Nairobi. Yes, we are all from different parts of the country, but we still do live in Nairobi. Nairobi also has some relevance, in the sense that we want to associate with the music that Nairobians like to listen to. We also want to represent our country with our different cultural backgrounds.


What is your goal?

Besides making money? (Laughs). To put Nairobi on the limelight, as well as to bring something different to the scene, which is fusion and an aspect of jazz. To tour a lot and to put Kenya on the map. Also, to make music generally and to serve humanity through our music. We always hope to stand out even as we do it.


Who do you look up to as a  band?

Rabai: Chris Porter, a saxophonist, Robin Eubanks, a trombonist and James Morrison, a trumpet player.

Mackinlay: Quincy Jones, an instrumentalist and an arranger.


Which are the major projects/shows you have done?

We’ve worked with Safaricom Jazz Festival, Koroga Festival as well as our own concerts which like MJC Live. We have also collaborated with the likes of June Gachuhi for her ‘June at 20’ show.  Our biggest gigs, however, have been Koroga Festival and the Safaricom Jazz Festival.


Best memory as a group?

Having a concert and people turning up at the last minute. We’d thought people were not bothered with our show whenever we looked at how tickets sales were going. But people ended up buying them at the last minute. Also having people dancing to our music and resonating to our sound and vibe is a really good thing for us.


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