Kenyan musician based in the US, Simon Javan Okelo has unveiled a new track “Sulwe” (Luo for star) – his second single following his recently released debut single “Chandore”. Both tracks are set to feature in his forthcoming 5-track EP expected to drop by January 2022. Both tracks are distinctly Nyatiti music and reminiscent of a style popularized by the late Kenyan Nyatiti player Ayub Ogada.
Ahead of the release, Simon said, “Sulwe is a beautiful tune that comes straight from my heart to your soul. With an open mind, listen to it deeply to help you understand beyond the language barrier,” adding, “I am dedicated to singing in my mother tongue to help protect and preserve it and also help change the narrative about Africa by demonstrating that our music is beautiful in it’s original raw style.”
“Sulwe” means star in Luo and in this song, Simon Javan talks about how the star was the guide for the three wise men in the Bible to Jesus’ birthplace. He juxtaposes the bible story to real-life situations – meaning that each of us have our guiding stars but sometimes we are not keen enough to realize that and also allow the stars to guide us. He adds “This song is a reminder that we are all amazing and we have our stars and that they will always stay with us no matter where we are and our current conditions. We have to allow the stars to guide us to our destiny.”
Simon Okelo is also the founder of One Vibe Africa and Madaraka Festival. The 7th annual Madaraka Festival was held on July 25th 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.