Jaba Jesus “Snowleopard” is a music producer originating from Nairobi, Kenya. He recently moved to Berlin where he studied the club scene thoroughly with fellow Kenyan emigre Alai K (byrdout.bandcamp.com/album/disco-vumbi-vol-ii
) and was inspired to produce music combining the hard Techno of Berlin night life combined with the popular music and traditional ethnic rhythms of Kenya where he was born and raised.
Under the mentorship of traditional and electronic Kenyan artists JJ has transcended far beyond the ubiquitous sampling of tribal chants with electronic beats and has attempted to create structures distinctive to African music within identifiable electronic music formats. In 2021 he released his debut album "Jaba City" which is a tribute to the city he grew up in and to the energy and creative genius of contemporary Kenyan music like Gengetone and early recorded music like Mugīthi.
JJ considers himself extremely fortunate to have learned his chops from various music scenes in Nairobi both traditional and contemporary. He has his finger on the pulse of new emergent styles of music and at the same time has been able to carve out a niche in the Heavy Metal scene for himself producing bands like Last Year's Tragedy lastyearstragedy.bandcamp.com/album/amongst-lions)
. Starting out performing in rock bands in High School in Nairobi in the ’90s he was lucky to witness the birth of Genge watching legendary producer Ted Josiah (Necessary Noize) at work whilst him and his young band mates rehearsed in the room next door. He moved his passion from the rehearsal room to the stage organising several concerts in the city whilst still in school. Upon graduating he had command of a decent sound system and established himself as an audio engineer for other local bands and began organising regular events including being the resident DJ for the swanky Muthaiga Country Club. It was through his association with the Kenya National Theatre that JJ was influenced and inspired by the multifarious styles of traditional music from Kenya that were being re-introduced and recycled into popular music. He considers himself extremely fortunate to have been both a student and a producer of several masters of instruments (Radi; Abakisimba; Grandmaster Masese: to mention a few) such as the Obakano ( a bass lyre); the Nyatiti, the Ishiriri in addition to a wide variety of percussive instruments such as the Isukuti drums.
JJ started recording traditional musical acts from the National Theatre of Kenya at the age of 20 having spent a good portion of his youth there ( his Mum who worked between the National Museum of Kenya just up the road and as a set designer and Ballet dancer). The National Theatre was a nexus for traditional musicians from all over Kenya and JJ was able to study and record with a wide berth of instruments and styles there such as the Isukuti drum from the Luhya people and the Obakano from the Abagusii. The pursuit of creating a justifiably “Kenyan” electronic music is a creative process that has taken him through the past 5 years.
He was inspired to look at music from an entirely fresh perspective by Sir Mumo the Sub-Saharan and King Cush, two pioneers of the emerging post-rock “realmcore” sound. Sir Mumo worked together with Cush and other artists to blend techno and trance with a distinctive post-rock vibe. They began working together extensively in 2014 and together they founded the Realm of Mist Cooperative Institute of Music in Tigoni, alongside working at the Tsunami animation studio in Nairobi as producers. After 3 solid years of recording and composing music the Institute was forced to close and Sir Mumo and JJ had produced a myriad of projects from a variety of genres all with a perspective of post-genre aesthetic: The Seeds of Datura; Breadsteppas; and King Cush - who brings post-hardcore sensibilities together with traditional chants (see his other band: A Truth Once Known).
His debut effort could be considered somewhere between post-Gengetone and Avant-garde African inspired electronic music. There is a deeper motivation for JJ for deconstructing these musical frameworks beyond ascribed aesthetic. “Using the hard groove of techno complemented by the fluid groove of Benga and Chakacha allow me to explore the symmetry of emergent harmonic patterns apparent in traditional music that operate as the self-organising structure or crystallisation of the music into a multi-dimensional object.”
released February 22, 2021
Written and produced by Jaba Jesus the Snowleopard with help from Alvarez Anwar, Nein Mili, Sir Mumo the Sub-Saharan, and Alai K.
Special thanks to: Marcus from Noize Fabrik, Berlin; Bakawolas, Nairobi; All the Realm of Mist personnel; My Dad; My Mom and Bro.