Santuri East Africa - Identity | Community | Innovation

From the blog

Team Reflections

As we wrap up a crazy year, read some of our team member’s reflections on SEMA, music education and Santuri more broadly.

David Tinning

Co-founder / Director at Santuri

This has been a hugely significant year for Santuri. Over the previous 7 years, we had never had a permanent base from which to operate, having always worked with partners in short term locations. Establishing our first ever Santuri Studio was the launch pad for a fantastic year, a grounding from which to build our community and deliver the kind of consistent support we have always worked towards. We moved in the premises at Muringa Road in January and have slowly built the space into something we are very proud of – a well equipped, accessible space where we can make music, run workshops, and manage our ever expanding activities. Although this road was not without its bumps, I feel we are safely aligned with our main vision as an organization – to build a self-sustaining community of innovative music practitioners in East Africa. 

As an organization we talk a lot about innovation – we gravitate towards artists, scenes and projects that are willing to break boundaries, and push people’s understanding of electronic music,  its related cultures, and how that fits into the East African landscape. Taking a look back at our activities this year, I feel we excelled in this – from improvised live electronic jams, deep listening sessions, museum installations, a music documentary film club, numerous workshops and trainings, and ultimately the biggest project in our history – SEMA. 

The idea for an electronic music academy has been floating around the Santuri ether for some years now, but it was only this year that those plans became a reality. This took a perfect storm of the right space, the right people, and the right partners to make it happen. I’m honored to work with such a team of inspirational characters who all bring something distinct and original to the whole – truly embodying what we refer to as the ‘Santuri DNA’.  This relates to a style of working that is built on a set of values that we hold dear – promoting innovation, supporting community, nurturing the East African cultural identity and committing to inclusivity. 

For me, the SEMA project brought together all this and more – it was genuinely moving to witness a class of 20 students grow and learn together, and more than that – build ties and  develop networks that will hopefully serve them well into their future careers.  I’d like to recognise the essential support and shared vision of our partner Goethe-Institut Nairobi in making this a reality, along with that of our wider circle of partners and collaborators. I’m more than thrilled to be a part of this process, and cannot wait to unveil our next steps for 2022. 

Sharon Onyango-Obbo

Co-founder at Afreative, Project Manager, SEMA 

In the final quarter of 2021, I got the opportunity to lead the project management for Santuri’s first “SEMA” programme. SEMA, the Santuri Electronic Music Academy, was a demanding, six-week, intermediate music production course. The cohort of 20 students were inducted into the worlds of composition, sampling, mixing and more! Facilitating these learning outcomes has been a great growth experience for both my production and managerial skills. Working with the Santuri team has given me the opportunity to contribute alongside amazing minds and music practitioners around the best ways to educate the next generation of creative East-African trailblazers. I believe that through SEMA, Santuri is shifting the educational and sonic landscape, introducing us to all the possibilities within the region and how, through practical skills building, can influence future generations to come. Despite challenges that were faced, the outcome has been pleasantly rewarding, for the knowledge I’ve gained and interactions made were not only beneficial to the larger vision, but also heartwarming through creating new bonds with an extraordinary group of producers!

Wairimu Sisian

Musician, Singer-Songwriter – Tutor Training Project Officer at Santuri

Playing my part in making SEMA happen has certainly been a highlight of my 2021. How awe-inspiring, to not only witness a careful collection of dynamic artists learn, share, and grow together, but also to see them have a blast engaging with such a fantastic team of educators, facilitators, and guest movers and shakers within our music scene.

I love to teach because I believe that when done well, the act of teaching creates & demands room for personal learning and expansion. From my experiences delivering Digital Distribution course, I am affirmed, inspired, and hella excited for the new generation of producers. I’m looking forward to the insanely good soundscapes that are carving out much-needed arenas for the music game we all play. SEMA left me super motivated to continue investigating different music industries’ systems and to continue asking the questions that will facilitate prosperity for our present and future art as Africans.

Creatively, I end this year having unearthed so many lessons in self-confidence, and tapping into new frontiers of my capability for expression. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the experience, and I anticipate a future of more service, impact, and growth for the music community. 

James Ler

Producer, DJ,  Technical Officer at Santuri

Being part of SEMA has been a great experience for me – one of the key highlights of this year. Working together with a team of highly motivated and passionate people, meant that everyone was doing their best to make the program happen. 

Watching the students of the SEMA intermediate cohort work has also been very inspiring. It was great to see the individual work ethic and how tightly they managed to collaborate. We had a pool of talented artists who were ready to collaborate, share insights and ideas on how to build a strong community amongst themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing the SEMA alumni push themselves even more as they continue to grow as artists. 

Emma Nzioka

DJ and Music Producer, Content lead at Santuri

I’ve had the chance to work with Santuri East Africa for some time and over the last few months I’ve been working more specifically on SEMA as the content manager. 

Santuri has been a key supporter as I founded a Nairobi-based femme collective called ‘Sim Sima’, which has enabled a number of women to begin their journey in music production. I myself have been a beneficiary of various workshops, having gone through the Femme Electronic program some time ago. It’s great that Santuri has continued to prioritize inclusion and has allowed me to host my own workshops. 

The recently concluded first semester of the Santuri Electronic Music Academy (SEMA) has been a wonderful experience and an enriching learning curve for our amazing team. It has been so fulfilling to see students go through a more refined curriculum under SEMA, to hear the music they have come up with, and to watch the Santuri music community expand. I’m excited for the exponential growth that Santuri has exhibited within this year and for what is yet to come. 

A personal highlight for me has been the completion of my first EP titled ‘Kilumi’ which is set to be released in 2022. With access to hardware at Santuri, I’ve been empowered to refine the entire project to completion. I had initially created the music myself with an Ableton DAW, but nothing compares to the artist community I met and collaborated with at the studio. 

Justin Doucet

DJ, Radio Host, Extra-curricular lead at Santuri

Having a long experience as a volunteer with Santuri, this year has indeed been a big turning point. We’ve taken on bigger projects, we’ve deepened some partnerships and we’ve connected with new collaborators. I’m incredibly proud of the SEMA program our team has built and run – from the skilled tutors, to the gear loan program, to the online content we’ve produced, to the activities we organized for the students. I loved that our team was always ready to take on challenges, and consistently prioritized the students’ learning throughout the program.  

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Santuri’s community has grown and there have been encouraging developments in East Africa more broadly. Some of the budding music scenes we used to see 2-3 years ago are now established, full of activity and dynamism. Meanwhile, completely new electronic music communities are taking shape. Looking forward to 2022!

Felix Mwitah

Producer, DJ, Project and Communications Officer at Santuri 

If I could summarize the year into one word, it would be growth. It’s roughly been one year since I first shared my work and what a ride it has been ever since. My first encounter with Santuri was through CDR – Create Define Release – which Santuri had partnered with to host a workshop in Nairobi. At the time I had maybe one or two tracks up and a whole 5 years worth of mostly unfinished productions sitting in a hard drive. This I attribute to fear of critique and perfectionism, which in a sense was me not being able to let myself be vulnerable.

The premise of submitting tracks rough around the edges was exactly what I needed and I ended up spamming the upload tab with my tracks which inevitably got someone’s attention. Being part of Santuri, I’ve noticed our strong commitment to accommodating and supporting artists. Emphasis isn’t placed on how polished you sound but rather on alignment to the core values of Identity, Community and Innovation. 

I realise perfection is a sure way to stagnate, as just taking one step set in motion so many things for me. This epiphany has translated further down the line, as letting go of that vague aspiration has allowed me to take on challenges I otherwise wouldn’t have, such as the role of project/comms. officer. 

It’s been a pleasure to witness the exponential growth of Santuri from primarily loaning out gear and holding workshops at the start of the year, to running music production courses, amongst other milestones. This is a testament to the capable and talented team behind it all. I can’t wait to see what unfolds next year!

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