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Meet REFUGE, Nairobi’s Very Own Blues/Rock Band Made Of Six Students

They love blues, rock and jazz, and are committed to promoting authentic rock music to a new generation.

REFUGE started in late-2016 when Patrick (guitar), Gabe (drums) and Silas (guitar) would get together to jam at each other’s houses. You could say that those early jam sessions went better than expected. The boys soon realized that they had the beginning of a band. Once they learned a few songs, they were ready to play them for a real audience, which led to some early “gigs” such as MS socials and talent shows.

Over time, they developed a very clear preference for the blues, classic rock, improvisational jazz, and lots of jamming. That led to them expanding in order to bring in all the necessary elements to complete the band, eventually adding Ben on bass, Teresa on vocals, and Ike on piano/organ.

Although they are expats (to one degree or another), REFUGE considers itself a Kenyan band that has family roots in the US, Bolivia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, UK, Belgium and Kenya. All members have various degrees of formal musical training. Four of them are students of Nairobi jazz bassist, Chris Okana, who not only teaches, he inspires.

The band’s influences are broad but some of the artists they listen to (and learn from) include Santana, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton and Blues greats such as Albert King, Elmore James and Buddy Guy. Their preference tends to be bluesy, guitar-driven rock. They see themselves as a jam band, with a strong tendency for extended solos and live improvisation.

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The band is named “REFUGE” because it represents what they are all about: somewhere you can go to and escape from the superficial, inauthentic music that fills our airways. However, they are not a throwback band. They believe blues, rock and jazz are timeless and universal, will always be great, and just need a little kick from young people to bring some life into it.

Below are links to three songs REFUGE recorded in studio in June 2018.

One is their first original “Gone Astray”, watch below.

They also have two more releases which are covers of bands they love: “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers Band, watch below.

and “Safari Song” by Greta Van Fleet, watch below.

Amazingly, “Gone Astray” made it on to the Kenyan airwaves, debuting at #2 on 105.5 XFM’s Weekly Top 30 countdown a few weeks ago; that countdown’s highest debut ever. The following week they made it to #1 (also an XFM record) and held that position for 5 weeks. This was beyond unexpected, and the kids are now more motivated than ever to continue writing and recording original music.

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