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Saxman JumaTutu Inspires Afro Jazz

Juma Tutu grew up in a musical family. His father used to play the lead guitar with the legendary Simba wa Nyika who were the then resident band at Saba Saba Night Club in Mombasa.
At times he would accompany his father to the band sessions, and he would listen to such hits as Shilingi Yauwa and it was only natural that he would follow in this father's footsteps.
Born in 1979, young Juma Tutu attended Makande Primary School and Tudor High School. "I loved singing while still in primary school, but. it was in high school, when my interest really grew."

While still in Form One, Tutu composed a song Tearless Cry which highlighted the problems of environmental degradation. The song managed to reach the finals at the Annual Coast Secondary Schools Environmental Competition in 1994 but did not make it for the National Finals.
Unperturbed, he would later enter for the Coast Province Music Festival as a saxophonist in 1998 with a brand new song Hadi Lini Tafahamu which scooped second position at the Coast but he was unable to make it to the National Finals in Nairobi following the uncertainty created after the August 7,1998 terrorist bomb blast.

Why the saxophone? Tutu grew up in a poor family. "My parents could not fund me through high school. So my last two years 1 had to pay for my own school fees by

doing singing shows on weekends at various entertainment spots."

Juma Tutu learned how to play the sax through a retired army officer Nahashon Mganga in Shimanzi, who used to repair saxophones. The years 1999 to 2000 saw him play the instrument with Generations Band at Serena Beach Hotel, Mombasa. One of the memorable hit songs to come out from this coast outfit is the ever popular Hinde. `With my experience I joined Bango Sounds and under the pupilage of Mzec Ngala, my mastery of the sax developed to an extent where I used to back him up."

The crowning point of Tutu's career was at the end of 2001 when Teddy Kalanda of Them Mushrooms decided to hang his boots (or is it sax?) A countrywide search of who would take over his mantle was conducted.

The gods of fate then smiled on Juma Tutu. Them Mushroom scouts had heard of his sax prowess and being born and bred in Momhasa was also an added advantage. "Willy Mazera, a grandson of the legendary Paul Mwachupa, took me from Mombasa to join the new look Them Mushrooms in Nairobi." By the time Tutu was handed the saxophone officially at a show at The Carnivore, Them Mushrooms officially changed their name to Uyoga. As the main saxophonist he got further exposure and his fame grew. "I played with them until 2003. We were the resident hand at Panafric Hotel, and we would play at Simmers every Saturday and at The UN Complex in Gigiri during official functions.

It was during this time that Tutu met an Israeli businessman Albert Attias, who was interested in learning how to play the sax. Tutu enrolled him as a private student and their friendship grew. Attias asked him, what he would like to do in order to further his career. Tutu, the poor boy from Mombasa was honest enough to say that he had always dreamed of owning his own band and music equipment.

Albert Attias was touched by the young man's honesty. He set aside Sh700,000; A generous amount at the time. And that is how The Tutu Band was formed in 2003. "I brought in musicians of my age." The original band consisted of Tito on Drums, Ben Ngala (lead guitar), Noah Baraka (keyboards), John Ulendi (bass guitar), Lawrence Sengo (trumpet), Tina (vocals) and Juma Tutu (saxophone)

"We started playing at Village Market on Sundays and at Free Bazaar Restaurant; Bunyala Road every Saturday," he recalls

Tutu's experience with Uyoga and Ban go Sounds helped him create a new niche in the expanding music market.

Being cautious by nature, he started by playing cover songs before experimenting on own compositions, rooted in the Swahili jazz tradition.

In 2005, Tutu entered for the Spotlight on Kenyan Music Competition, an annual event organized by Alliance Francaise that identifies and showcases the diverse musical talents in Kenya.

For this particular 2005 Edition Tutu was backed by his former hand Uyoga and he easily sailed through to the finals. As a winning finalist, his song was included in the compilation CD album. "I had a fan base and I started appearing in newspapers, TV and talk shows and my song started getting air time."

This exposure gave Tutu the courage to do a full album and in his own words: "I started practicing from 2005-2008. I composed all the nine songs in my album except Alongozi. Daniel Kazungu had sang the song in Giriama, but I changed the lyrics, melody and music arrangement and did it in Kiswahili."

The nine track album is a Swahili jazz masterpiece aptly called Kimombasa that includes the hit song Nakupenda Kama Sukari.

Producing an album as Tutu would later find out is not an easy venture and he singles out these problems along the way as follows:

  • Financial capital to pay session musicians
  • Lack of serious and dedicated musicians
  • High studio recording fees
  • High costs of mastering and mixing music tracks
  • High cost of cover design and distribution

Through determination and hard work, Tutu was able to surmount these pitfalls with a bit of goodwill and sheer luck. "My friend Albert gave me Sh120,000 to pay for the artistes fees, veteran producer Tabu Osusa sponsored my recording at Ketebul Studio, while a friend of mine who fell in love with my song Nakupenda Kama Sukari (Douglas Patterson), contacted me by e-mail from the US. I ie helped me in mastering and mixing my recordings in the US at his home studio for free!"

Juma Tutu went ahead to design the cover of his first ever CD album but when he launched it, lie was shocked that it did not have the international appeal needed for a concerting audience. He later approached Ralf Graf of Sasahivi Media who helped him redesign the cover in its current form.

The nine-track CD album contains the following songs:Undugu
Yule Yule, Rafiki Kundegereka, Kimombasa, Tahadhari, Alongozi,
Nakupenda Kama Sukari and Chrisopher na Betty