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Gig Review: Muroki at Galatos

Muroki at Galatos 

Friday, 19 April 2024 

Photographs by Gabriella Hope 

Words by Ruby Webb-Sagarin 

Since the early 1900s, the space that the current Galatos Bar and Venue resides in has hosted everything from dances to fraternities to boutique functions. This air of community and service has never left. Friday night was my second time at Galatos, but I had an impression distinct from my first time there for a comedy night. A frugal interior with versatile stage and lighting possibilities make this venue modular, hence its longevity. Afrobeats played as people swayed, bought t-shirts at a makeshift merch counter, and filled the floor with drinks in hand. The crowd of young adults hummed in anticipation of Muroki's final concert in Aotearoa before his big move to Germany.

South African-born rapper Jujulipps opened with a banger of a set in a black bodysuit. Anyone who walked into the venue feeling insecure or self-conscious forgot why the minute she launched her first verse. From "Saucy" to her debut song "Hilary Banks", named after the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character, Jujulipps preaches self-love and tenacity in a smooth flow. Meanwhile, DJ iCEY garnished her bars with his fluent beat mixing. Jujulipps matched her lyrics with literal dance moves; she kicked the air on "kick" and encouraged us to dance as our bones instructed. She harnessed the crowd's energy, and we revelled in hers. She blends afro-beats and contemporary hip-hop in a perfect storm that pays homage to her heritage and mainstream influences yet is at once unique. Jujulipps is the definition of eclecticism in Aotearoa's music scene.

Muroki, Aotearoa's Kenyan-Kiwi king, took the stage in a relaxed black outfit and sunglasses, oozing charisma. The crowd had grown jittery in our wait. His band accompanied him: Jacob Brown on bass, Tetava Johnson on guitar, and Ezra Donnelly on drums, each in a plain white tee or tank and ornamented with dangly earrings and various tattoos. Muroki introduced them with flattering epithets that praised their talent and good looks, and thanked Jujulipps for her fantastic accompaniment. A true gentleman.

One only finds this crowd's energy in the home soil of an artist. Although not Muroki's hometown, Raglan, nor his father's native Kenya, all of Aotearoa radiates pride in our connection to his artistic upbringing. We recited his lyrics like scripture—a passionate farewell. During "Summer Season", a collaborative song with LEISURE, my arms pricked into goosebumps. The half-time rhythm of the drums, gentle chimes, burst into the chorus, and Muroki's smooth vocals made this a set highlight.

Muroki introduced Piri Pearsall as his collaborator and sister for Sweet Lime, which she performed with him in a "Jesus loves you" bedazzled belt. "Light Me Up", an affectionate love song, heightened the comfort and warmth in the crowd, and some couples suitably shared a kiss. People shuffled between the dance floor and the bar to get drinks, boogied and clapped along, and joined Muroki's singing when he pointed the mic to us. I counted at least three attempts from audience members to climb on their friends' shoulders. If you've been to music festivals or concerts, you know that's a sign of artistic success. Everyone was a fan—one girl confessed to me that this was her eighth time at his concert.

Amidst all the fun of his set, Muroki maintained a natural sincerity. In his preamble for "Found in Nairobi", which he performed solo, he explained the struggle to identify with either side of his heritage: "In New Zealand, I'm just the black guy; in Kenya, I'm the white guy." Like a writer wields short sentences, his setlist transitioned between upbeat and mellow, new and old songs. As a true stage artist, his confidence and beam never hiccuped. A genuine force of connection and sanctity was present in that room, an appreciation and dialogue between him and the audience.

Muroki performed a fusion of his charter, "Wavy", and its Te Reo Māori counterpart, "Rehurehu", for his declared final song. We waved our arms to the beat and mustered our loudest sing-along of the set. One encore came to no avail, followed by chants pleading, "One more song!". The band retook the stage and left us with the title track, "Timezones", "Find Me", a fantastic guitar solo from our main man, and satisfied appetites. The crew took a final picture of the band with a Kiwi audience. Muroki's humble and cheerful modus operandi shone in his final words of the night: "Peace and love to you all." 

Listen to Muroki and his newest album, "Timezones", on streaming services and keep an eye on his German journey!