By Parastou Booyash
The Kenyan president quotes their songs in his speeches, they sing about politics, and urge people to work democratically if they are dissatisfied. They have been playing together for ten years, but the mean age of the band members is only 20 years. And they describe themselves as kings. There are definite signs that Sarabi is a band we will hear more from.
“We come from a humble country, but to be completely honest: we are kings in Kenya,” says Mandela from the band Sarabi.
“Everyone listens to us. Rich or poor, young or old, diplomats or street sweepers. But thankfully we don’t feel superior to others,” he explains.
The eight band members are relaxing in the Roskilde sun. They are too familiar with the stage to feel any butterflies, but they are excited to play at Roskilde. They gave an unplanned performance in the HT bus on the way from Roskilde Station, and they also do so after the interview – in that drumming-straight-on-the-table fashion.
Everyone listens to us. Rich or poor, young or old, diplomats or street sweepers
But if you delve into their lyrics and how they view the world, you note that they sing about serious issues. About the difference between the rich and the poor, but also about how individuals are forced to stand up for themselves.
Because it may be that something is wrong with you.
“We also sing about ourselves, and we inspire a lot of people through that. But we have to be like lions to inspire people. There is no use in whispering if you shout and sing,” says Bella, who is the only female member of the band.
“Yes, we only document the times we live in. And our music is our weapon,” adds Adam.
An experience that goes beyond the stage
Roskilde Festival’s world music booker, Peter Hvalkof, was the one who fell in love with Sarabi at first sight at a concert in Africa.
“I strongly urge festivalgoers to take part in a musical experience delivered by Sarabi – a band that might very well be the stars of tomorrow. They are massive talents, and being at a Sarabi concert is a great experience, due to their drive and energy which reaches across the stage,” explains Peter Hvalkof.
The world’s greatest compliment
Sarabi gets the vibrant energy Peter Hvalkof is talking about from their surroundings and from their love of life.
But it is most of all about the power of music and the broad appeal of their musical messages. Mandela becomes serious when answering how they impact their audiences, and which is the greatest compliment the band has ever received.
“We once met a very poor man on the street. He told us that he did everything to teach his children about Sarabi, because we do so much good for society. He even gave us all the money he had that day, because he believed so strongly in our music and wanted to make a contribution. So we had to accept his donation to avoid insulting him.”
All the Sarabi members have something to say when asked about their message, and they occasionally become so eager they talk over each other. But they all agree on what they want and where they are headed. So Mandela articulates it.
“The compliment from the poor man meant a lot, and it reinforces what we believe: that we only live once, but if we do something good for society, we live forever.”