SummaryIn 2009 a close-knit collective of London-based musicians - Jesse Hackett (keys), Louis Hackett (bass), Sam Lewis (guitar), Chris Morphitis (bouzouki/guitar) and Tom Skinner (drums) - first arrived in Nairobi. They were brought to Kenya's capital in order to collaborate with local musicians as part of a project established by an organization called Art of Protest which aims to promote local Kenyan musicians and rappers. Art of Protest introduced the London faction to Joseph Nyamungu, a phenomenal player/teacher of the nyatiti (an 8-string lyre) whose scope of knowledge of the traditional music of the Luo tribe is unparalleled. The sessions with Joseph and Charles Owoko, a drummer specializing in traditional Luo rhythms developed into something unique, fresh and full of verve - a Nairobi meets London sound clash.
The five London-based musicians, who have been friends since their school days, draw on a broad spectrum of African influences, from Fela Kuti and Tony Allen to the likes of Thomas Mapfumo and Oumou Sangare. "What I heard when I first played Owiny Sigoma Band on the radio was a phat, wayward dance record with African leanings and it just felt completely right," explains Gilles Peterson.
On reconvening with Joseph and Charles on a second trip to Nairobi in May 2010, the group had now grown to a 10-piece big band, with Joseph inviting many other musicians to join the proceedings. A two-day session at the Kenya National Theatre then culminated in the forthcoming self-titled album - a collection of gloriously loose Afro grooves symbolic of the true culture clash between the Luo and London. The founder of Gorillaz and Afrika Express, Damon Albarn, even gives the project his personal blessing, popping up on organ duties on the sprightly 'Odera Lwar' and 'Margaret Okudo (Dub)'.