I’ll admit to being more than a little bit excited about featuring this band. Not only does their sound remind me of home, but they are the No.1 reason I wanted to start a music blog in the first place – to feature new, exciting and experimental artists.
That said, meet the Owiny Sigoma Band.
Of course with a name like Owiny Sigoma Band, you would expect a traditional (Luo) sound: nyatiti, drums and wailing vocals. But throw in a couple of Londoners and you get something that’s experimental, fresh, and has accurately been described as a ‘soundclash between Luo and London’.
The two-separate-worlds-merged-into-one feel is obvious in most of their tracks, though in some cases the effect is subtle. Take for example my personal favorite, Doyoi Najo Nam, which is driven by a more traditional sound with a little subtle bass guitar and few electronic bleeps. In Wires, (another favorite) the tables are turned; the predominantly electronica track gets a rhumba face-lift from the guitar riffs.
So, how did they get started?
In 2009 Jesse Hackett, Louis Hackett and Tom Skinner travelled to Kenya thanks to the Art of Protest, a voluntary organization that advocates for cultural collaboration between artists from Kenya and Britain. While in Nairobi they ended up meeting ‘nyatiti master’ Joseph Nyamungu and drummer Charles Owoko; and thus, a band was formed.
Their first recording session together was at an abandoned factory in the middle of a thriving potato market*, which eventually led to their first self-titled album in 2011. Then for their second album, the aggressively named, POWER PUNCH!!! the Kenyan side of the band packed their bags and headed to London. This resulted in an album that had a lot more electronica influences than their previous debut (see, Sunken Wrecks and Owiny Techno).
What are they up to now?
Their latest album, Nyanza, will be released on August 28th this year. It recounts their journey to the Nyanza region and tells it in a narrative form. Judging from tracks like Luo Land and Chang’aa Attack, it seems the band is only getting better at fusing together their individual sound.
With the flood of upbeat afrobeat music currently taking over the continent, Owiny Sigoma might find it hard to get through to a much larger mainstream audience. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people whose musical tastes are adventurous and who genuinely love casting their nets wider for something that’s unique. If that’s probably you, great. If you also happen to love listening to the same kind of music your parents listen to, that’s great too. (No one’s judging.)
Featured image credit: gillespetersonworldwide.com
* I’m currently entertaining guesses where this market could be.