Owiny Sigoma Band (Live Review)
Owiny Sigoma Band @ Cafe Oto (6th June 2011)
With tickets sold-out months ago, seven-piece outfit Owiny Sigoma Band gave their longly-anticipated audience what they had been waiting for- an electric Kenyan/London soundclash that raised the roof of the usually mellow Cafe Oto in Dalston.
Blasting into opening number “Gone Thum Mana Gyi Nadhi (Play The Music With Confidence)”, Kenyan frontman Joseph Nyamungu and percussionist Charles Owoko introduced their native Luo sounds to gathered spectators. All of whom were raring to see Nyamungu’s repetitive, chant-like playing of the nyatiti – an eight-string lyre. Immediately reminding us of the musician’s collaborative efforts, London musicians Jesse Hackett of Africa Express and Gorillaz on keys, drummer Tom Skinner, bassist Louis Hackett and guitar player Chris Morphitis joined in with the Kenyan duo, playing some hearty African-inspired beats and quirky keys. Instantly, there seemed something refreshing and unique sounding about the Owiny Sigoma Band.
With rumours that Hackett’s fellow Gorillaz and Africa Express companion Damon Albarn might make a guest appearance, it was no surprise that the man himself enthusiastically walked on the stage and sat himself infront of his Farsifa organ. The following tune “Doyoi Nyajo Nam” saw the Owiny Sigoma Band revving the tempo up a notch and with Nyamungu’s robust vocals, intricately layered beats by both drummers and Albarn’s jazzy motives, there appeared a distinct influence of the bands wider African influences, notably 1970s afro-beat and the likes of Fela Kuti, Tony Allen and Ebo Taylor.
Following numbers included distinct pop-loving “Here On The Line” that reflected a more mellow-groove, yet captured the essence of a respectful collaboration between the Kenyan and London-based musicians. Dazzling their audience with another ever-so-catchy tune was “Wires”, a track that with layered afro-disco beats and edgy, Soweto-style electric guitar riffs that could easily be compared to the sonorous sounds of indie types such as Vampire Weekend. However, “Wires” presented a little more than the the typical pop gem and with its own distinctive groove, it’s a sure summer hit!
Rounding the musical extravaganza off was a high-octane, energy-fuelled dance song “Vitamin C” that saw all musicians, including Albarn go wild, leaving their heated audience wanting more. After such huge media hype over their debut self-titled album (released on DJ Giles Peterson’s Brownswood Records) as well as a sold-out gig, these guys and their eclectic London/Luo sounds are onto a winner and bound for great things.
Owiny Sigoma Band play at Blaze Festival at the Southbank on the 12 July and, on the grapevine, tickets are selling like hot-cakes.
by Amy Cunningham