Kenya's Yunasi is BBC's Next Big Thing

MUMBAI: Yunasi, a nine-piece band from Kenya, has topped a list of thousands of musicans from around the world to win BBC World Service's The Next Big Thing 2007.

The global music talent search received entries from over 88 countries and Yunasi was chosen as the winner by an all-star jury after playing live at the BBC's famous Maida Vale studios in London.

Yunasi, one of Africa's leading Afro-fusion bands, won with 'Ndi Ndi Ndi,' which wowed both the judges and audience at the final.

The Nairobi-based band flew to London for the final to play at BBC World Service's 75th Anniversary Concert on Saturday (15 December) with some of the biggest names in music at London's indigO2.

'Ndi Ndi Ndi' is about the dangers of drinking too much. It aims to appeal to both the young and old and is a manifestation of Kenyan Sesube music – a mixture of Sega, Isukuti and Benga styles.

Yunasi's vocalist said, "Winning the BBC's Next Big Thing 2007 is a dream come true for us. After ten years of hard work, this will help us attain international recognition; we are on top of the world."

Music industry experts including Talvin Singh (singer/super producer Madonna and Jay-Z), Tahita Bulmer (New Young Pony Club), Nile Rodgers (Chic/producer David Bowie, Diana Ross, Halo 2) and William Orbit (producer Robbie Williams and Sugababes) were on the jury which judged the final.

Orbit says, "I was blown away by the standard of all the artists. If I paid money to go and see any of them, I know I wouldn't be disappointed. We were all exhilarated by the experience and impressed by the general unjadedness of the occasion, both in front of the cameras and behind them. Some shows are about humiliation but this was about real talent. There was also a spirit of unity between the bands that I felt was important."

The standard was so high that the runners-up place was split between Vrelo (Serbia) and Jeremie Johnson (United Arab Emirates).

The other finalists included Hraun from Iceland and Maya McCallum Et La Toy Factory from France.

The final five had been selected by a panel of music journalists and experts from a group of 20 acts, who were chosen from the entries submitted via the BBC's website and a worldwide roadshows.

The programme's executive producer Simon Pitts said, "I'm just amazed at the number of entries and the standard – it gets higher every year. The music is so exciting and we just want to get these sounds heard by as many people as possible."

The Next Big Thing is part of a season of programmes from BBC World Service, Free To Speak, themed around freedom of media and information, to celebrate BBC World Service's 75th Anniversary.

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