Kenyan musician based in the US, Simon Javan Okelo has unveiled “Chandore” (Luo for suffering) – his first single set to feature in his forthcoming 5-track EP expected to drop by January 2022. The Nyatiti music, very reminiscent of the late great Ayub Ogada’s style, is Simon’s way of expressing the misery a majority of black men face, especially in America where he has lived since relocating from Kisumu, Kenya in 2010.
Watch “Chandore” on YouTube:
Ahead of the release, he said, “Chandore goes through my personal journey and the places I have traveled. It’s about what I have seen and how these personal experiences from around the globe compare to those in America,” adding, “I think that no matter where you live or come from, more African men need to feel comfortable being who they truly are and not feeling pressured to be a certain way in order to fit into other people’s expectations.”
“Chandore” is produced by Seattle-based producer and musician Bob Antolin and mixed and mastered by Kenya’s Shamir Tadeiya. The struggle and suffering of African men, a topic mostly kept under hush tones, is what inspired Okelo to write this song. He shared, “Men are societally expected to show no emotional vulnerability despite toughest life situations but it shouldn’t be that way.”
Simon Okelo is also the founder of One Vibe Africa and Madaraka Festival. He first released “Chandore” on July 25th at the 7th annual Madaraka Festival with hopes that its proceeds will go to One Vibe Africa’s Education Music and Art Program (EMAP) to amplify youth supportive programming, leadership, and social activism in Kenya and Uganda. His upcoming EP is inspired by these principles and will be out to honor both African and African American culture while elevating different voices and creating community cohesion. Simon states that his sound and Nyatiti style of music is inspired by his African and Luo culture and desire to preserve it. “Let’s protect and preserve our culture no matter where we are” – he concludes with a message to all his fans.
Simon Javan Okelo is a father, media creator, entrepreneur and musician with roots in Kenya. He uses digital media and real-life events to promote and celebrate a fresh narrative about the African and African American experiences both locally and globally. Simon has been bridging the gap working on global initiatives since 1991. In 1997 he created an orphanage together with his family called the Young Generation Centre during the AIDS epidemic. This work, among many other initiatives that he’s created, led him to become the Field Director for Africa from 2005 – 2010 at Solace International, then Associate Director at MED25 International thereafter.
Since 2014, Madaraka Festival has attracted more than 10,000 patrons and reached over 13 million people digitally while empowering diversity and inclusion in the Seattle community. Madaraka Festival has uniquely deepened the relationship between African, African American communities, and fostered partnerships with other international communities while shifting narrative and honoring cultural dynamics.