Every time I speak to someone about the SAMOSA Festival, the first thing they ask me is “is it about a samosa competition or about food?” and I just laugh and say NO! It’s about Creating Cultural Encounters! Firstly, SAMOSA is an acronym for “South Asian Mosaic Of Society and the Arts”. It’s a biennial cultural platform which blends culture, music, poetry, art and drama to convey messages related to the cohesion and integration of Kenyan society in a creative and expansive manner.
When I first heard of the SAMOSA Festival, funny enough it didn’t strike me as a festival to do with food. I knew there was definitely something more to it than that and some clever person out there used it to get everyone talking about it. I was right.
As I learnt more about the SAMOSA Festival I wanted to be part of it somehow. And I figured probably through radio. I was in touch with Faraaz, the Marketing and Social Media Director of SAMOSA Festival, and we were trying to work something out. He mentioned to me that I tweeted about the SAMOSA Festival randomly and they got 2000 hits from it!
Vera from the sales team at Radio Africa Group approached the SAMOSA team to advertise their festival on one of our stations and set up a meeting with the Festival Director Farrah Nurani. Now, I knew or should I say had an idea of what SAMOSA was so I didn’t say much to Vera about the it before the meeting. More or less wanted her to hear Farrah out. I met Farrah for the first time that day. And she just oozed with love and passion for Kenya and everything that SAMOSA stands for! I knew I had “an idea” of what SAMOSA Festival was all about but I was so inspired and so aware at this point that I just asked Farrah “how can I be part of SAMOSA Festival?” she said do what you do best, tweet about it, talk about it. That’s how you can be part of SAMOSA.
On the 27th of August, Farrah calls me up and says “Hey Sadia! You know when you asked me “how can I be part of SAMOSA”? I’m like yea… She goes “how would you like to be our Media Director?”. I think Farrah may have gone deaf for at least 10 seconds! And that’s how I got on board.
The crew is (in alphabetical order) – Aamera, Chaandni, Faraaz, Farrah, Karan, Kiuri, Natasha, Ravneet, Suraj, Zahid and Zarina
They were already pulling long hours of hard work for SAMOSA. Getting sponsors together, the website, the graphics. Just everything! And my bit was to bring the Media together for the home coming of Sidi Goma!
The Sidis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago and made India their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.
A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faquirs. Their native African music styles, lyrics and musical instruments have mingled with local influences to form this final symbolic representation of ‘African-Indian-ness’.
This is the core spirit of SAMOSA Festival and we are extremely excited to bring this powerful and integrated troupe to Kenya to perform for our audience and to work with our artists and youth.
I started putting in long hours too. Straight from my day job at Radio Africa Group run over to MindBodySpirit (Farrah’s office).
As days got closer everything started to fall into place. We were in festival week and we were ready to go!
Started off with the Festival Launch at the Tribe Hotel on the 20th of September 2012. Only press and sponsors were invited. The emcee for the night was Fareed Khimani and a gorgeous speech was done by Farrah followed by a performance from SAMOSA Strings and a short one by Wassim of Sidi Goma.
On Saturday 22nd September was the Curtain Raiser of the Festival. We did our set up and everything so beautifully fell into place. Sidi Goma absolutely shocked the crowd and their performance unbelievably filled with so much energy. Everyone was just left stunned and it was brilliant!
Sunday 23rd Septmeber was all about SAMOSA Play! A day spent at Karura Forest with Cricket going on and Chess. There were vendors and a lot of socializing going on. The evening ended with Murphy’s Flaw performing and Sidi Goma, who attended the event, quite enjoyed their music!
Monday 24th was the sponsor’s night at the Kenya National Museum.
Tuesday 25th was all about Tides! A play written by Award winning Kuldip Sondhi. I helped set up that night but had to dash back for my show on East FM, hence wasn’t able to watch the play but from what the crew mentioned, it was brilliant! The most stunning part however was, the transformation of the Kenya National Theatre. That stage did not look like you were there. It was something else!
Wednesday 26th was one of the best nights of the SAMOSA Festival. Hadithi, poetry woven into story telling. Setting up was simple. Sound check was so much fun. Everything fell into place beautifully. The night was amazing. The atmosphere was so great. The crowd was multinational. And the performance itself was flawless. How the artists interacted with the audience was what made it even more fun and worthwhile. For the next two days we were all singing the Twisty song! What twisty song? Well… you should have been there to know!
Thursday 27th was The Concert in The Forest! SAMOSA Strings & Sculpture at Karura Forest was unbelievable. As set up, it was a rough day for crew. But as soon as the event started, the audience was left in awe. Under the stars, with the gorgeous open sky, the concert did great! I left around 10 but it went on till 11.30 and everyone was absolutely pleased.
Friday was all about the GRAND FINALE on Saturday 29th! Rehearsals and set up.
Saturday morning I made my way to KICC to help set up. Putting up the SAMOSA Festival flags at KICC never made me feel that Kenyan! I can’t begin to explain how and what that felt like. KICC stands so much for Kenya.
Everything started to come together. Vendors, the stage, the lighting, the sound, the crew, the audience…
Before the event started, I went to the rooftop of KICC. I wouldn’t have even thought about it because of how busy I was, but Neil Thomas pointed it out and just thought, let’s try our luck and see if we could go up. It was a few minutes to 6 and they were about to close but let us go up. Nairobi, from that view point, looked spectacular!!! Like WOW!!! We stayed up there along with other people that we found a few minutes later, for about 40 minutes. The sundowner was just breath taking. Standing right in the middle of the building, where the helipad is, was just something else. One of the best days I had ever had! There’s just something about KICC!!!
The event started a bit after 8. Before and after we had one of the most phenomenal Dj’s, Jack Rooster, play such a great set. He definitely set the modd for the night. The Grand Finale – titled Pigo la Moyo – The Heartbeat of Kenya is Her People – started off with Tahir of Eat Out Kenya auctioning his gorgeous paintings. Dagga Tihli made their debut that night, there after Sidi Goma did their performance and Kenya’s Slum Drummers stole the stage thereafter! The most astounding moment was when Dagga Tihli, the Slum Drummers and Sidi Goma took the stage together!
SAMOSA Festival 2012 for me was a journey. I won’t go into detail of what it had done for me but I’ll tell you this much; 2014, you best mark out your September! It’s only going to get bigger and better and the planning starts now!