They grew up on the streets of Kenya, where the odds of living a life touring the world and performing for Pontiffs were stacked impossibly against them. 

Now a team of young men who first honed their craft on the streets of Mombasa are bringing their eye-popping acrobatic show to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. 

And the experience of fulfilling a dream of performing to the international audiences will reap benefits for other disadvantaged children in their homeland.
Five men make up the acrobatic circus troupe, performing at next month’s Fringe in a high-flying acrobatic pastiche of hit movie The Blues Brothers. 
For acrobat Bilal Musa Huka, the visit to a major international arts festival to perform for the first time in the UK is a huge opportunity.

He said: “The job opportunity in Kenya is very difficult. 

“Nowadays, the situation we are coming from in Mombasa, the situation there is that there are a lot of people taking cocaine and marijuana, the young kids, the younger generation.

“If I didn’t do this, then this could have been my life. We are very lucky to be doing this with our lives.

“Even now some of our friends who we were together with in high school are sitting somewhere smoking, because they don’t have any job opportunities, they don’t have anything to do. 

“So they smoke.”

The men grew up with each other, and took to acrobatics inspired by other street performers in their home city.

Their raw natural talent was recognised by the teachers of the Sarakasi Trust, a Nairobi-based performing arts school which aims to provide opportunities for deprived children in Kenya. 

Having trained there, they are now the trust’s international advocates, travelling around Europe with their physically dramatic show, inspired by the music from the hit 1980 film.

Performer Seif Mohamed Mlevi said: “Sarakasi takes  young people, maybe orphans, who cannot help themselves.

“In Kenya there are a lot of amateur acrobats. Growing up, we would see them perform, and we wanted to do it. 

“That’s why we started by ourselves before we eventually went to Nairobi for Sarakasi.

“But when you go to Sarakasi the first thing you have to do is have discipline. Because when they take you out to work you can’t do that if you don’t have discipline. 

“They teach discipline and respect for work, and sometimes if you have lived in slums you don’t have those qualities in your life.”

Since conceiving their show with Italian circus promoters Circo e Dintorni in 2016, the troupe has performed to 250,000 people over 600 shows under the tongue in cheek moniker The Black Blues Brothers, including an audience with Pope Francis in Rome. 

Sabe said: “We performed for him and met him, we shook his hand.
“Our friends back in Kenya cannot believe we actually met the Pope.”
The troupe will return to the Sarakasi Trust in the coming months, where they will take their experiences  from the Fringe with them. 

“It’s important to us that we can still work with the children of Sarakasi, tell them about what we have done and where we have been because of the Sarakasi Trust,” said Musa Huka.

“They feel happy for us, working all round Europe. If things are gong well here for us, then that’s good for them.”

The show in Edinburgh describes itself as the “circus show that everyone is talking about”. Set on a stage made to look like an American bar, even the chairs, tables and surroundings become props for the five acrobats.

In a recent interview with, they said; “We are very excited. We have been travelling all around Europe but we have never been to the UK before.

“We performed theatres, festivals – big events with the sun and with the rain.

“So we don’t fear the Scottish weather.

“Edinburgh is a great city, before and after the show we surely walk around the city to discover its treasures.”

They might not be alone. The Scotsman yesterday reported that the city risks becoming a “tourism ghetto” where “Scottish accents” have become rare to hear.

It highlighted concerns from Edinburgh World Heritage based on a survey of 500 people. They said: “Our research also indicates the Royal Mile is losing its local character. 

“It shows that people associate their visit more with attributes such as ‘being surrounded by foreigners’ than with ‘hearing local Scottish accents’. 

“This suggests it is at risk of becoming a tourist ghetto, which will certainly detract from its long-term appeal and economic potential.”

The Black Blues Brothers is at Assembly Rooms, George Street, 1-25 August at 4.30pm.