Owiny Sigoma Band

The self-titled album Owiny Sigoma Band presents an eclectic soundscape of musical delights- reflecting a compelling collaboration between London-based and Kenyan musicians.

The ten-track debut offers a diverse mix of styles, infusing the traditional sounds of Kenya with Western styles such as dub, hip-hop and dance.

The album came together when Jesse Hackett of Gorillaz and Africa Express along with other fellow musicians were invited to volunteer at organisation Art of Protest, a voluntary organisation that aims to promote local rap artists and music makers. During their trip, the Brits met Joseph Nyamungu, an expert player of the traditional nyatiti, an eight-stringed lyre, belonging to the Luo tribe of Western Kenya. Along with a few Kenyan percussionists, the musicians began playing together, exchanging musical ideas and writing some pretty exciting songs. Back in London, one of the recorded tracks was introduced to DJ Gilles Peterson, who was so impressed that he commissioned a full album for his Brownswood record label.

The Owiny Sigoma Band presents a refreshing assortment of tracks using either traditional Luo beats and melodies or the more anglo-influences by the Brits. Opening numbers “Rapar Nyanza” and “Owegi Owandho” display a real sense of traditional Luo sounds and sit nicely in their untouched, purest form. Right at the other end of the spectrum is “Here on the Line” that distinctly wavers towards the London musicians, aside from for the subtle swaying of the nyatiti in the background. The best tracks are those that clearly represent an equilibrium between both cultures. “Doyoi Nyajo Nam” presents a blend of Nyamungu’s nyatiti motives with groovy outbursts on the synth and a truly foot-stomping drum beat. Not surprising is a guest appearance from Damon Albarn who adds a few quirky beats on his Farfisa organ (like an electronic autoharp) on tracks “Odera Lwar” and “Margaret Okudo (Dub)”.

Over-shadowed by the music giants of Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa, the sounds of Kenya have rarely been given such limelight before. Yet, debut album Owiny Sigoma Band is a musical gem that offers a refreshing change to other fusion-style compilations. For one thing this album feels as if it was born from a real musical collaboration between two groups that although geographically worlds apart present a truly organic and at times, mesmerising album.

by Amy Cunningham

Leave a Reply