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Saxophonist with fondness for kiswahili Jazz - (Entertainment, Saturday Standard August 9, 2008)

When he first saw the saxophone while he was a Form Two student at Tudor Secondary School, Mombasa, he fell in love with it. Although his father, not a well-known musician, was a guitar lover, this did not tickle the teenager.

For the love of the musical instrument, popularly known as mdomo wa samaki at the Coast, he sought to be tutored by a saxophone repairman. Juma Tutu, 29, is not a well known name in the Kenyan music industry Outside the country, however, he needs no introduction. Tutu has performed in South Africa, Tanzania and, recently, he launched his first album at the Alliance Francaise.

Unlike his age-mates, who are churning out the 'bongo', 'genge' and 'kapuka' genre of music, the father of two has introduced a new variety. Recently, he launched his first album, which he says is pure Kiswahili Jazz.
"I did not want to do 'genge' music," says Tutu. "To me genge' is not music since most artistes do not use any instruments; just empty computer noise." Music, he says, should be instrumental and not just computer generated beats.

The Nairobi-based afro-fusion artiste last month re-launched his Kimombasa album, which has a collection of eight songs, among them an instrumental song.
The new album cover seeks to trace Tutu's musical origins to the Kenyan Coast. Clad in a white 'Kanzu', Tutu stands (hands raised towards the sky) against the background of the ocean, with palm leaves dropping from above and from his left.
Diagonally placed on the cover is a saxophone, his trademark instrument. On the back cover is the Coastal landmark of the two elephant tusks. All this, he says, is an effort to sell 'Kimombasa' as the genuine music from the Coast. Tutu, whose real name is Juma Abdallah, is brother to songbird Nyota Ndogo. The two grew up in Makande slums.

The artiste, who says he plays three musical instruments (the drum, saxophone and guitar) started his career with the legendary Them Mushrooms, now known as Uyoga, before quitting in 2003 to form his own band -Tutu.

Today his Tutu band is doing well,and plays some of his songs, as well as other cover songs by famous artistes. However, with the launch of his album, he is keen to pursue a solo career.
"I am now concentrating on building my name as a solo artiste, but that does not mean I have abandoned my band," he says. Juma has fused a couple of elements to make his own Kiswahili jazz sound unique. Lovers of 'chakacha' will adore it.

One of the songs featured in the album, Nakupenda Kama Sukari (I love you like sugar) has become an instant hit. The track has been used in the programme Kivunja Mbavu on KBC. and on Citizen TV as the intro for " Tafrija. The song put him in the limelight locally in 2005. Tutu, who admires renowned artists like Fadhili Williams of the Malaika 'fame and Oliver Mutukudzi, says he values musical instruments and would never record a song without a touch of his favourite tool of trades - the saxophone and the guitar.

"Music has to be real. By this I mean the listener should hear the sound of the drum. the saxophone, the piano and many other instruments. Without those instruments, I consider that empty noise," he says.
His love for the musical instruments has seen him spend more than Shl.4 million towards purchasing the same. "I cannot rush to the studio and hurriedly record a song without my instruments," he says.

During the violence that rocked the country early in the year, Tutu's band toured several hotels, where they held gigs spreading the message of peace.
When Tutu refers to patriotic songs, he says, his focus is music that advances the themes of nationhood, togetherness and peace. Already, he has several such tunes, which he wrote last year. one of the songs, 'Undugu', which means brotherhood, calls on Kenyans to embrace each other.
For Tutu, brotherhood starts with his band. "My keyboard player and I come from Mombasa," he says. "My percussionist comes from Central Kenya. My drummer comes from Westem. My bass player comes from Nyanza. Now that is brotherhood," he says.