Shamsi is doing big things currently, you're on TV, blogs, a Google search of Shamsi Music is flooded with your appearances at the Safaricom Jazz Festivals. How are you guys handling all of this?
We are actually humbled and floored by the trajectory our music and brand is taking! Things are moving fast, but we're not complaining. In fact, we are grateful to God for the opportunity to do what we do. We surround ourselves with an accountability group that helps us stay in check... We don't want all that's happening getting to our heads.
It's not easy for any musician, especially a band to achieve the kind of success that you have experienced so far. How has the journey been?
Well, success is relative. The definition of success is different for different people. The journey though, has been eventful. Some of us have played together for a long time, but the current band configuration, and the brand Shamsi Music, has been in existence since October 2014. We have had great disappointments, as well as great achievements in the brief time Shamsi has been around. So we can say the journey has been eventful, fun and full of learning opportunities. There's much greater success ahead, and more importantly, legacy, but we know that we have to do the time, and we're content with that, as we enjoy God's favor through the journey.
You guys seem to have good chemistry and a good bond. What do you do to keep that going?
We have a relationship away from music. We are friends, try to get involved in each others' lives, we basically try to do life together. The spirit behind this flows into or through our music. We also rehearse together as much as we can. Most times up to 4 times a week.
Take us into a regular practice/rehearsal session of yours. Are you the serious kind of guys who have a strict schedule with a penalty for whoever comes late or the more laid back types who make constant jokes and have a good time but still deliver?
We generally have respect for each other's time. Lateness is not a big an issue for us as it is for other groups I have seen. Professionalism is practiced by the band members... Once in a while we have some isolated instances of lateness, but most times not out of disrespect, but genuine reasons. We have a more or less structured rehearsal session. Usually 3hrs, sometimes 4hrs per session depending on workload. For the longer sessions, we incorporate a 15 minute break for guys to refresh themselves. We insist on guys learning their individual parts before band rehearsal for efficiency. During the sessions, we try as much as possible to keep it business only, so that we use time well.
One thing I have been keen to note is your referral to Shamsi Music not as a band but as a brand, something a lot of musicians don't pay too much attention to. What is your approach to this?
Branding contributes a lot to longevity. How you package yourself, consistency, what the consumer interacts with. The consumer at the end of the day will appreciate freshness and consistency. We want Shamsi to grow into something bigger than us, bigger than a band, bigger than the music.. A recognizable brand with a timeless product. That's how to create and leave a legacy to be emulated.
Creating memorable musical experiences is at the core of our brand. When the music and the product is experiential, then it's memorable. When it's memorable, then you have something timeless.
Well put. One of your products causing a great deal of excitement right now is your new album "The Audition." I know a couple of people waiting to get their hands on a copy and personally I have been waiting anxiously since I heard it's announcement a while back. What can we look forward to from this album?
What to expect from "The Audition"? Roughly 58 minutes of a memorable musical journey. We have had people tell us that our brand of jazz is an easy listen, soothing, calming and exciting even! Soulful music., Fun arrangements. A Shamsi sound.
A refreshing, new sound.
Sounds exciting. The artwork on the album is quite refreshing as well.. it has sort of a pop style technique to it. What is the inspiration behind the design?
Thank you! I will say, the artwork was done by a designer who has not done album artwork of this magnitude. This was his first such project. We took the gamble to go with him because we wanted someone who could do something new. Something fresh. I am not sure he was going for a pop-style technique, but if that's where it ended up then great! The brief was we wanted something fun, colors that resonate with our brand, and the theme has to match the music in a way, sort of like a pre-cursor to the music. The artwork is designed to give you a taste of the music, from the overall design, African print motifs to the fonts. Wholesome. Experiential.
When I look at the artwork on the album I picture someone who has gone for an audition and brings the house down so well that they drop the mic as they leave the stage hehe. Not sure if that is accurate but the gamble seems to have paid off. For a lot of designers trying to get clients to believe that you can deliver a job without having done something close to what the client requires is quite a task which makes it difficult for the creatives who are new to the industry even when they have the talent.
You guys also have very cool photography and your outfits are always on fleek. Can't recall an event I saw you performing in where you went on stage dressed just anyhow..
The designer, Chris Wanjagi (thedirectionman.com) has done several other jobs for us over the years, so trusting him with this new task was not difficult. In fact, he designed our logo, so he understands brand continuity.
About the mic drop, you're right!
For our outfits, we have our designer, Nechesa Odima, to thank for that. She knows how to make us stand out for sure! We are glad the consistency is showing, but it mounts the pressure for us to remain consistent. We are up to the task though!
Photography, we've had a couple of great photographers come through for us. Solo Masila (SpeedsnapS Photography), Mbarathi Karuga and Derek Murithi.
Your logo is pretty cool. What is the inspiration behind it?
Our logo ties in with our name, Shamsi, which is Swahili-Arabic for "Sun". We seek to be the light in every sphere of influence we are a part of.
The logo was also designed by Chris Wanjagi
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