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February 18, 2019

Njoroge now thinks 'Out of the Box'

BACK WITH A BAND: Francis Njoroge
BACK WITH A BAND: Francis Njoroge

THOSE in the “with-it” fashion, music and art world of Nairobi in the late 1970s will, of course, know who Alan Donovan and Francis Njoroge is.

Donovan ran the African Heritage House which functioned as an art gallery, jewellery making fashion house with inhouse models, who included Iman, a house band that added an audial component to the arty visual couture that was a talking point across the length and breath of sub-Saharan Africa.

Francis Njoroge was the livewire piano player in that African Heritage band that toured Europe and even shared a stage with none other than the incomparable Cameroonian world music star and king of Afrodizzia, Manu Dibango.

Now those not born then and those who thought the good times would never roll, again, get a second chance to feel the pulse that made Nairobi the go to art-music zone for the rest of Africa and beyond.

Alan Donovan and Francis Njoroge will be hosting a music and art event on Sunday, March 13, starting 2pm to 6pm at Point Zero Cafe.

Richard Onyango, a well known artist from Malindi, will be exhibiting his artwork for the first time in Nairobi. He has had several exhibitions in several countries abroad.

Njoroge will be launching his band 'Out of the Box'. They have been in rehearsals since last year. The band plays on Afro fusion music that Njoroge has been working on for several years.

In his time, Francis has fronted several projects including Radi with younger brother John Kariuki, featuring former Tasso Stephanou’s Makonde bandmate and Somajeko drummer Shabani Onyango and guitarist Zak Sikobe, who now lives in the UK and spends most of his time, converting “ancient” acoustic guitars into electro-acoustics by way of Fender amplified pick-ups with tone and volume knobs controlling the acoustics.

The Point Zero Jam is meant to gather support from friends and all music lovers.

This weekly event will be reminiscent of the old African Heritage Saturday afternoons at the original African Heritage Gallery on Kenyatta Avenue.

Francis now hopes to continue with his musical vision. He has been performing at the Casino in Malindi for many years. That is where he formed a friendship with Onyango, who is now exhibiting at the Nairobi Pioneer Gallery under the sponsorship of the Museums of Kenya and the Murumbi Trust.

Pappillon, a sensational new musician who designs and creates his own instruments, is a protege of Ayub Ogada, the co-founder of African Heritage Band, will alternate weekly on Saturday afternoons with “Out of the Box” during PointZero Jams with guest musicians to be announced.

Born in 1960, Onyango is younger than the other pioneer artists whose works have been shown at the Nairobi Gallery. Onyango is noted for his “retrospective works” painting scenes from Mombasa’s Old Town as he imagines it was in 1963 or the bus that took him to school in 1968. As a young man in dusty cowboy boots, Onyango had many careers including driving, farming, carpentry, fashion designer, wood carver, sign painter, jazz musician and animal trainer, before he started painting at the age of 20 encouraged by some of the Italian supporters of the arts at Malindi and a local businessman and art collector, named Feisal Osman.

Later as a young artist, he met a voluptuous Italian girl named Drosie and produced his most famous series of works on their brief love affair, which are like snapshots, or a slice of life during his more flamboyant days.

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