Whether it’s providing top quality audio-visual solutions for an electrifying Diplo concert or meticulously executing the tri-annual Safaricom International Jazz Festival, Mosound Events Ltd. lies at the heart of Kenya’s events and entertainment industry. The Nairobi based company is a full service event planning, production and management company and is a member of the AV Alliance, an international network of leading event technology rental specialists as well as EMAK (Events Managers Association of Kenya) and MSK (Marketing Society of Kenya).
Mosound was founded in 2008 by professional DJ turned entrepreneur, Kevin Mulei. Since then, the company has grown to become one of the most reputable events agencies in the East African. The company’s team has had a hand in orchestrating numerous festivals across East and Central Africa. From the GOMA Festival, an annual event celebrating urban, contemporary and traditional African dances held in Goma, Congo; to the annual Mombasa Rocks music festival which was headlined by Chris Brown and featured Wizkid; to the upcoming Rick Ross concert in Nairobi.
Aside from external functions, MoSound produces events for internal brand assets. One such asset is the Groove Networks, a gospel-centered, social movement aimed at shaping and transforming youth culture through music and entertainment. Its platforms include the annual Groove Tours, a country-wide tour bringing top gospel musicians, DJs, dancers and hype-men to cities across Kenya and Rwanda; Groove Nomination Night which unveils the nominees of the highly anticipated annual Groove Awards; and the Groove Awards itself, East Africa’s largest Gospel awards ceremony.
Another popular brand asset is the Safaricom International Jazz Festival, a tri-annual festival that connects music lovers with jazz musicians from around the world. This phenomenal event is hosted in conjunction with Safaricom Limited, one of Kenya’s leading communications company’s. Past performers include the late Hugh Masekela, David Sanborn, Nairobi Horns Project and most recently, BWB.
I caught up with Joy Wachira, Brand Experience Manager, to discuss Kenya’s current events landscape.
Monica Kemoli Savanne: In your opinion, what are Kenya’s top cities for events?
Joy Wachira: There are at least four or five major cities where events take place in Kenya. Cities capable of hosting tours include: Naivasha, Mombasa, Eldoret (especially because of multiple universities, you have all your youngins). Another one that isn’t really a city but is a big town is Meru. It’s a rich area so people are quite exposed. They have a high population and good grounds and security as well. They’re also good spenders. Then of course there’s Nairobi [Kenya’s capital city]. And What’s big in Nairobi now is the spenders. And the spenders aren’t the youth. It’s actually the middle class and above, so you’ll find the people who have been doing really well this past year are acts that you haven’t heard of since the ‘90s! But at the same time this could be the year of Rick Ross or more EDM acts coming to Nairobi. Also, when you’re coming to Nairobi, you must be very specific on what you want. Nairobians know what they want and also love a good venue. They like being part of a VIP experience.
From what you’ve experienced, what are the best venues in Nairobi? Most of events are outdoor because we don’t really have big stadiums or arenas. Is it [events] mostly festival vibes?
Well its outdoor but we have also seen the rise of people looking more for experiences than just the venue. You can have an outdoor event at Ngong Race Course but you’ve created a tunnel - you’ve really transformed the entire space into something else. You’ve created a VIP section that looks like a nice sandy beach area then you get into the tent and it looks like your in a stadium. Another space apart from Ngong Race Course would be Carnivore [another open-air venue]. Carnivore is excellent for events.
Building off of great venues, Nairobi hosted several lit events over the summer  and was one of Diplo’s stops during his African tour. How was MoSound involved, if at all, with that show?
MoSound wasn’t that involved with his show but we had major involvement with their audio visuals solutions. They were very specific with what they wanted. We also gave his team some events guidance just because we’re an events company and have experience with this market. We’d say try this, try that...We found that there was a large majority of Kenyans who were fans of Diplo. The show was great! People travelled from other countries to come and watch. I mean this was people jumping and jamming from 10pm to morning. However, I would have recommended that they do a pre and post video to spread more word.
Did his team expect the quality that MoSound provided?
I think Kenya has shocked people a lot based on the fact that we have better gear than expected. We have been adding to our portfolio of gear because we’ve had to deal with a lot of international jazz artists who are just as particular. Then came the Chris Brown concert which cemented the need for top quality equipment.
Another major event that Nairobi hosted was the FOMO Party’s 3rd Edition featuring Jidenna. Was MoSound involved in this event as well?
Majorly - we provided all AV solutions. Jidenna was an interesting show. The riders were not as big we thought so it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. They came to us and said, “This is the rider. Cost for it”. That’s how the the conversation started. We were interested in trying this one [event] out and seeing what would be different. MoSound loves challenges. We love our local events but we also love challenges.
We have realized that the most important thing with every show, especially with big acts, is the technical rider and the experience. Anything else you can find in any other country. From this kind of stage, to that kind of tent, and those kinds of chairs you know. But you need to give the people a good experience. People don’t remember what route they used coming in and out but they always remember the experience.
Is your process more extensive when it comes to your brand assets like the Safaricom International Jazz Festival?
We always say at MoSound, planning is ninety percent, execution is 10. I feel like when we plan jazz we spend 99 percent planning. Kav [ Kavutha Mwanzia-Asiyo, M.D] sits with the Safaricom team including the vision bearer of this [event] who is also the CEO of Safaricom Bob Collymore. They go through each act and do auditions for the local acts. It’s a very rigorous process. You don’t just land on the festival. I’ll ask Kav to tell you more about it.
[Kavutha’s input to the conversation]
Kavutha Mwanzia-Asiyo: We want to showcase the cultures of the different countries present in Kenya. We currently have four country partners: Israel, Belgium, Germany and the UK and we’ve worked with the Italian Embassy and the Dutch embassy. What happens is our country partners sponsor a jazz act from their country who then comes to Kenya. They forward names to us of musicians they think will be excellent for our stage. We then pick a band from each of those countries and have one or two headliners. Last year we had David Sanborn from the US as a headliner. We also always have a Kenyan band who we audition live.
The festival has four phases. There’s the big festival in February which is the jewel in our crown. It’s a whole week and every country gets a night. We have a VIP dinner, a school show, a family show; we have two jazz lounges in the evening featuring a musician we think will be fantastic. We’ve had Hugh Masekela, Roberto Fonseca Alune Wade. Just recently we started doing international jazz day on the 30th of April. This last year we did a Kenyan celebration of jazz and we had all the bands that have played for us play one afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised. It was packed!
Do you think MoSound will move in the direction of curating more of its own events, like the Safaricom Jazz Festival?
We are starting an arm of that as well. But we’re also in business. We don’t just want our gear lying around. If you want to use it, we’re ready to hire it out to you. We will provide the AV solutions for both local and international acts. We also don’t want to risk being involved with an act that won’t do well. We just want to be more careful with where our name is. But yes, we are considering it.