On 11 June 2017, we held the first Machakos Jazz Session which drew guests from as far as Kinshasha in Congo and Boston in Massachusetts. A pleasant surprise was one very energetic and positive guy, who bumped into the Jazz festival by sheer luck but ended up craving to come back for artist residency at Ubunifu Machakos. When you meet him at first, you will be drawn to the very beautiful beadwork hanging on his neck, and he will gladly let you know that he makes jewellery. But is beadwork all that he represents?
Abshai “the hunter” is an artist born in 1992 in Bujumbura, Burundi. At a young age, he enjoyed hunting rabbits. Later in life, the hunting spirit manifests on stage as he (cunningly) hunts for fans and followers.
Asked if he is a musician, Abishai responds; “No. I am an artist. Musician is just one box. I am a lot more than that. Music is part of what I do, and what I do is my purpose in life, and my purpose in life is to be happy, and share happiness, because I believe that no one deserves to suffer.”
Abishai was influenced to become the artist he is by his father who was a guitar maker in the village of Nkenga, north of Bujumbura. As far as he can remember, he started his musical journey at 10 years, but his art-spirit could be traced to when he was born. ‘You only know that you are an artist when you know what art means,” he asserts.
He has tried a lot, including making jewelry and searching for indigenous knowledge in music. He makes the “All Nations” jewelry, a very colorful combination of beads, stones, chains, silver and plastic. He is also a dancer, who traces his influences to Michael Jackson. His curiosity led him to joining salsa classes in Kanyosha, as small village adjacent to Nkenga in 2010.
A few years later, he left Burundi to venture in the world, to explore art and particularly music, finally landing in Kenya in 2012. This is when he saw the diverse colors of music and real art. He joined Sauti Academy for a yearlong artist development program, where he learnt vocal techniques, songwriting and stage performance. He plays the acoustic and bass guitars, and he can comfortably transpose the sound of the nyatiti and inanga onto the guitar.
After graduating, Abishai started polishing his sound and finding the uniqueness of his music. Burken is a genre he created from Burundi country music and Kenyan traditional sounds, including the nyatiti. He calls his music ABI music, a cheeky short-form of his own name. As is evident from his style and demeanor, Abishai is driven by originality, and he believes that everyone is an original copy of himself or herself.
“ You are unique as the finger print of our thumb,” he concludes.
For bookings, interviews and all manner of connects, Abishai is reachable through
firstname.lastname@example.org +254 798 129 875 and facebook, twitter & instagram – Abishai Maxman