CNN meets FBI, a dance crew putting Kenya on a global stage

The biggest dance group in Kenya, FBI Crew had an exclusive interview with African Voices, as they were preparing for the World Hip Hop International in Phoenix, Arizona. Over four thousand of the world’s best dancers will come together for the World Hip Hop Dance Championship, an event true to the real values of hip hop culture. Crews and MegaCrews from over 50 countries will compete to capture the world title and international bragging rights while hip hop icons, artists and celebrities make appearances and perform.

Ezra Njagi, one member of the dance crew, told CNN how their name originated: “The name FBI came up through the things that we were going through, the situation, the area we were from, high school and everything. And we decided to focus on something and the things that we were doing, the dance that we were doing they were things that we were going out of this world the moves, and everything. That’s the name Focus Beyond Imagination”

Njagi also explained how FBI is about more than dancing: “For us, FBI is not just a dance crew because we grew up together, like they’re all my big brothers from a ghetto called Majengo. We realised we had the passion for dance when we were in high school.” Another member of the group, Ramadhan Nyachio adds: “As a team first of all we respect each other. I respect your space and you respect my space… we are brothers and one sister. We are a family.”

At an international competition in France FBI gave one of their most passionate performances to date, inspired by the then-recent events at Garissa University in Kenya. Nyachio recalls the attack at Garissa telling CNN: “The whole country was shocked, 143 students dead. We felt it because the guys who were in the university, all of them were our age… We did the choreography, made it so emotional and then we went [and] performed it in France. That was our best choreography ever, I think. And then on Facebook it trended like it had 5.5 million views. Garissa attack means a lot to us.”

FBI would go on to win the competition in France proving to themselves that they had the potential to perform on global stages. Njagi remembers the competition fondly saying, “It opened our eyes, it opened our minds. We started looking beyond Kenya, beyond Africa. We started saying, why don’t we challenge ourselves more? Why don’t we go out more?”
Focus Beyond Imagination also takes CNN to various sites which were important to the group including a community centre where they used to rehearse. Nyachio explains: “This was the first place we did our choreography. This place means a lot to us because we trained here for nine years… The floor isn’t good, there is no mirrors, there’s basically nothing. At that time no one believed in us. We weren’t given this place, actually we begged for this place. This is where FBI was given life.”

Despite the success the group has received, there has been challenges, such as during their first trip to the US, as Nyachio explains. “The worst year of our career was 2016… We were given air tickets and then we were promised that when you guys reach there, we’ll send you cash for accommodation and meals. We were there for like three weeks… So, we were calling like, “Dude, us guys are here, and we need accommodation. We need food. We need to move around. How are we going to go about it?” And then, the people who were supposed to send us cash were like, “Okay. If we can’t do anything right now. Go from Las Vegas, go to Washington, DC to the Kenyan embassy, and then tell them that you want to go back to Kenya. And then come back to Kenya.”

At the World Hip Hop International competition FBI won an award for best cultural act, once again putting Kenya on a global stage. Nyachio says: “I think people consider us celebrities, superstars. But us guys are still humble. We still remember where we came from, and we still know where we are going. The image is still clear of where we came from. That makes us humble.”

African Voices is sponsored by Globacom