Local band teams with Kenyan recording artists for series of concerts
Christian rock band Sevenglory spent two weeks touring in Kenya, Africa. The Valparaiso-based band conducted their fast-paced Into All the World tour at the invitation of Nairobi Chapel. Band members Kurt Felsman, Gabe Johannes, Caleb Johannes, and Jeff Smith joined Nairobi Chapel’s music and entertainment team, K-Krew, for concerts throughout the country.
Nairobi Chapel’s K-Krew, shorthand for Kubamba Krew, is a team of national recording artists and DJs who volunteer their time performing at high schools and universities. Their mission is simple: to use music to tell young people about Jesus Christ. The musicians who show up are well-known in a country where gospel and contemporary Christian music tops the charts. “Kids love the concerts,” Felsman said. “They know these artists’ and their music from TV and radio.”
K-Krew took advantage of the American band’s presence to step up their normal concert schedule. The two-week tour was a sprint from concert venue to concert venue. “We played one or two concerts a day every day,” Felsman said. “But it was cool because we led a lot of worship at the Chapel, and we got to do our rock and roll thing at the schools and universities with the kids. Some of the best crowds that we’ve ever played to.”
Most of the time, the crowd was hearing a full, live rock band for the first time, Felsman said. DJs are popular in Kenya, but most musicians are soloists. Kenyan bands have a very different sound, one closely tied to the musical traditions of the country. American rock and roll is still a novelty—a loud, chaotic novelty compared to local music, Gabe Johannes concedes. He said the band worried before every set they played that Kenyans would find their music weird. The concerns were unfounded. “The crowds were having a blast,” Felsman said. “Over there, a crowd will stick with you the whole time. If you want them to sing, they’ll sing. You want them to clap, they’ll clap. You want them to jump, they’ll jump. They’re just really into the music experience.”
Sevenglory played venues that were decidedly foreign for an American band. "We performed on a dirt sidewalk with a tin roof over our heads and on a rickety stage in the middle of a soccer field,” Felsman said. They also performed with worship leaders for church services and events at 15,000-member Nairobi Chapel.
The band’s rapid-fire Into All the World tour was developed out of the ministry partnership between Nairobi Chapel and Calvary Church of Valparaiso, 1325 Roosevelt Road, where three of the four band members attend. Felsman is the church’s Director of Worship and Johannes it’s Technical Director. The American church and its African counterpart are gradually forging bonds through shared ministry initiatives—they planted a church together in Monrovia, Liberia this year—and the exchange of ideas and talent. “In the States, it seems nobody likes to learn from anybody outside this country, but there is a lot our church can learn from a church their size,” Johannes said of the Kenyan mega-church.
Calvary Church and Nairobi Chapel hope the tour is only an opening act. Given the cross-cultural appeal of music, senior pastors Lionel Young of Calvary and Oscar Muriu of the Chapel share a belief that musicians can and should shape how churches get their message about Jesus Christ out to the masses. “Musicians don’t dwell on rhetoric and doctrine like, say, theologians do,” Felsman said. “They think about the sound and the story of song. So, when a group of musicians gets together, they’re all about sharing their message, whatever that is, with as many people as possible. For Christian artists, that means sharing a message of hope.”
Calvary Church, located in Valparaiso, Indiana, is an independent Bible church committed to spreading the word about Jesus Christ throughout Northwest Indiana and the world. Calvary offers a contemporary worship experience and relevant expository preaching to nearly 1000 worshippers. For more information, visit www.calvaryweb.net.
Sevenglory is a Christian rock band signed with 7Spin Music. Sevenglory performs as a worship band for churches, retreat centers and camps, and music festivals. Band members are Kurt Felsman (lead vocals/guitar), Caleb Johannes (bass/vocals), Gabe Johannes (percussion/vocals), and Jeff Smith (lead guitar/vocals). For more information, visit www.sevenglory.com or the band’s Facebook page.