Been researching music all morning for my commercial clients and finally came across something that brightened my mood.

The Owiny Sigoma Band was formed when 5 UK musicians went to Kenya to work on a music exchange music, organised by Betty Hughes and Aaron Abraham of the volunteer organisation The Art of Protest which promotes Kenyan music (can’t find more info on them online…). The UK musicians included Jesse Hackett, leader of the awesome electro funk group called Elmore Judd. The Kenyan musicians they were introduced to were Joseph Nyamungu, a master of the nyatiti (8-string lyre) in the Kenyan Luo tradition, as well as Charles Owoko, a drummer specialising in traditional Luo rhythms.


It’s interesting to see how African music is creeping into the indie pop mainstream, with groups like Vampire Weekend sporting African influenced guitar riffs, projects such as The Very Best, Daman Albarn’s collaborations with Amadou & Mariam, and the popularity of albums such as Best of Ethiopiques getting attention outside of the “world music” scene. Not to mention the trend of vintage recordings of African 60’s and 70’s funk and soul coming out on all kinds of labels. The constant ebb and flow of music influences across borders and oceans.

Now comes this interesting collaboration. There are already several things in its favor. Elmore Judd is an electro funk group that have a unique sound. The musicians they met up with, although I didnt know them previously, come from a old and rich musical tradition.

What I like most is the pared down but well thought out instrumentation. Tracks alternate with Jesse Hackett’s distinct singing on some, Luo chanting on others, solo electric guitar melodies and Joseph’s 8 stringed nyatiti, organ and compelling rhythms. Its at once simple, but entrancing with enough complexity and differences between tracks to keep you hooked.

Just realized that track 7 “Owegi Owandho” is in exactly the same entrancing style as Opondo Mugoye’s “Odhiambo Otieno”, track 5 on Limbalimba rock. It was from the East African 1925-48 recordings from the series The Secret Museum of Mankind. They are both from the Kenyan Luo music tradition. Have a listen:

New Luo -UK collab

Old Luo recording

Very exciting that UK musicians are discovering this kind of music and breathing new life into it by exposing it to new audiences and transforming it with their own influences.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Leave a Reply

/* google analytics added by olivia november 14th */