Owiny Sigoma Band // Nyanza Documentary Screening
August 25, 2015
Join us at Rough Trade East for a screening of the NYANZA DOCUMENTARY, and a Q&A panel discussion with Film-maker Ivan Ogilvie and The Owiny Sigoma Band.
In 2009, a handful of London-based musicians travelled to Nairobi in Kenya to collaborate with local musicians there. The project was set up by Hetty Hughes and her friend Aaron Abraham, co-founders of a voluntary organisation called Art of Protest established in order to promote local musicians and rappers. Hetty and Aaron were disheartened by the way they were being sidelined and overlooked, so they set about inviting some London-based musicians to visit Nairobi and collaborate. It was a loose arrangement… there was no specific agenda other than to bring the musicians together, exchange ideas and enjoy the results.
The traditional folkloric music of Kenya has not received the same global exposure as that of Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa or North Africa for example and one of the objectives of this project was to try and build on this. The band draw on a broad spectrum of African influences, from Fela Kuti and Tony Allen to the likes of Thomas Mapfumo and Oumou Sangare, but bar Jesse’s participation with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, this was the first opportunity for Jesse Hackett (keys), Louis Hackett (bass), Sam Lewis (guitar), Chris Morphitis (bouzouki/guitar) and Tom Skinner (drums) to visit specifically for a musical project.
‘Nyanza’ is the third album from this cross-cultural, boundary surpassing Owiny Sigoma Band. For their third offering, the band travelled to the Nyanza Province of Western Kenya – home of their two members Joseph Nyamungu and Charles Owoko – to explore the birthplace of Luo music. A complex, constantly evolving, musical relationship now in its fifth year, the project has seen the band producing music in both Kenya, for their self-titled 2009 album, and in London with the second Power Punch LP. The group features Nyatiti master Joseph Nyamungu and Lou percussionist Charles Owoko, both from the Nyanza Province in Western Kenya, as well as London-based musicians Tom Skinner (drums), Jesse Hackett (vox/keys) and Louis Hackett (bass).
‘Nyanza’, is loosely arranged as a narrative following their trip to ‘Luo Land’. From the first track, ‘(Nairobi) Too Hot’, which tells a tale of running to the hills and escaping the hectic city life, to the hypnotic Nyatiti sounds of ‘Owour Won Gembe’ and the rapturous ‘Changaa Attack’, the album follows the band’s experiences as they head up the country to Kisumu and Nyanza Province. The albums centrepiece ‘Nyanza Night’ tells the story of the night they played a show for Joseph and Charles’ village for the first time, followed a 12 hour Nyatiti sound clash. Much of the instrumentation was recorded at their rented house in Kisumu – listen carefully and and you will here many ambient sounds from chickens to rainstorms.
The result is a string of striking tracks, the music always feeling raw and organic, the rhythms and sounds reflecting the spontaneous jams from which the record was born. ‘Nyanza’ is a truly unique record, a faultless melting pot of disparate sounds, one that reflects the ambience and energy of the environments in which it was made. Arresting electronic grooves fit side by side with soft Lou singing and traditional Nyatiti music to create yet another pivotal moment in the turning cogs of this intoxicating, often surprising, soundclash.