How Kenyan Moved From Slums to Organising US Concerts Where Sauti Sol Set to Headline

A collage image of Javan Okelo(Left) and Sauti Sol band (Right)
A collage image of Javan Okelo(Left) and Sauti Sol band (Right)
Javan Okelo/ Sauti Sol

Javan Okelo is the organiser of the Madaraka festival in the United States, a series of concerts that bring together African performers including Sauti Sol, Akothee, King Kaka, Edy Kenzo and other artists and DJs.

In an interview with Chams Media's ‘Daring Abroad’, Okelo narrated how he grew up in the slums of Manyatta in Kisumu.

Because of his passion to serve the community and mentor others, he landed different roles in Non-Governmental Organisations where he directed humanitarian projects in different countries including Malawi, Ghana, Liberia and South Sudan.

“I came to the US in 2009 to do a fundraising tour for the big NGO I was working for and I visited about eight different states and in 2010, I moved to the US and my girlfriend was also from here,” he stated.

Javan Okelo at a past photo shoot.
Javan Okelo at a past photo shoot.
Javan Okelo

Despite the move, Okelo stated that he still continued with his humanitarian work back home under his media entity known as ‘One Vibe’.

The entity provides alternatives to violence for the youth, giving them musical instruments and video cameras and training them in the art and media sector as well as connecting them to opportunities.

“Luckily I go home every year because I have a lot of work that I am doing in Kisumu at One Vibe we have an education, music and art programme there,” he stated.

At the same time, he continued to organise community events in Seattle to build a voice for the African people in the diaspora.

“We organise one vibe African Dinner Series, we organise Madaraka Festival, we organise Kijiji Night and so I spend a lot of my time mobilising communities and producing small and large events,” Okelo added.

The 2023 Madaraka festival which was set to begin on May 21, was meant to be a display of the best entertainment in Africa.

“The festival started in Seattle in 2014, so this is the ninth year of the festival. This year we have the best headliners and we want Africans to become part of this event,” Okelo stated.

Comedian, Teacher Wanjiku will be the hostess at the first venue of the concert in Seattle which will bring together artists from different countries in Africa.

“We have brought Akothee, DJ Shinski, King Kaka, Khaligraph Jones,” Frank Ulwenya, artist and one of the organisers stated.

The first concert of the festival will be streaming live in Kenya for five hours. 

He advised other Kenyans in the diaspora to build a reliable community of people around them, be patient and know that they are capable of doing anything despite any educational level attained. 

A screengrab image of Javan Okello during an interview.
A screengrab image of Javan Okello during an interview.
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