Alright, I've been out of Kisumu for a week or so now, but my heart and head are still there. Since some of you asked, I've put together a playlist of the greatest jams me and the crew listened to while we were in Kisumu--some from local artists, others from around the world. We've got everything from club anthems to extremely obscure traditional music. The soundcloud tracks are available for download. Enjoy this taste of the Raw Music archives... LaFam and Vic da Produca-- Sire Alphabet & LaFamDowg - Sire (demo) by RawMusicInternational We spent so much time with the guys from the Urban Music studio, and this song, Sire, was always on hand. I can rap along to the whole thing, but you don't want to hear that.
Dishon Olima -- Live at Home Dishon Olima-- Live at Home in Kisumu, Kenya by RawMusicInternational My favorite artist of the trip and my constant muse, Dishon Olima is an 80 year old blind Luo blues man. One of the first people to adopt the guitar after its introduction to Kenya after WWII, Olima has a beautifully unique fingerpicking style, plucking with handmade metal index and thumb picks and singing about people and times that are long gone. We recorded this set at his modest home in a Kisumu ghetto, his first recording session in decades.
Anchoras- Jah Love Anchoras- Jah Love by RawMusicInternational We spent an almost painfully chill Sunday with the boys from Anchoras, Kisumu's only acoustic roots reggae band. They jam under a tree in a pot and kale field where some of them work. We played this song constantly at the Raw Music house. Strong.
Nebulazz, Double B, Kenrazy--Q Kwa Bank Q Kwa Bank- Nebulazz, Double B, Kenrazy by RawMusicInternational We met Nebz and Double B when they opened for Nairobi rap OGs Wakimbizi at Area 51. They were young, full of energy, and played this veritable club banger. The song is about Friday, when people line up at the bank to get their money so they can party (well, those people who actually have bank accounts). The track is a prime example of kapooka music, a rap sub-genre that's extremely popular in Kenya. It's called kapooka because the beat always goes boom ka-poo-ka boom ka-poo-ka. This song became really popular at the clubs while we were there and memorizing the verses helped my Swahili. Unfortunately, half-raps about "the club" didn't come in handy very often...
Peter Logono - Mary My Lover Peter Logono-Mary My Lover by RawMusicInternational We met Peter Logono playing his massive handmade 9 string traditional Turkana lyre at a busa club off the road to Uganda. He came to the lake region to escape cattle rustlers and drought in the north, where his tribe are traditional pastoralists. His quest for better times hasn't panned out yet, and he makes his money playing for change at the busa club. These stories partly explain why, at 24, he looks twice his age. He usually sings in his mother tongue, Turkana, but I like the English chorus on this song--Marrrrry, Mary my lover...very catchy.
Eli Sketch - Reach for the Top Eli Sketch- Reach for the Top by RawMusicInternational UFO- Mama Africa Raw Music International: Mama Africa by UFO by RawMusicInternational Raw Music homeboy Eli Sketch is creative, funny, sometimes brutal and always rhythmically creative. The first song is a solo track from his most recent mixtape (check the soundcloud page for lyrics). Classic rap boasts with a Kenyan tinge. Below that is the song Mama Africa that he recorded as part of the group UFO. Mama Africa was one of the most popular jams I posted on here, and for good reason. It's extremely powerful political rap and offers a refreshing/depressing youth perspective on the situation in Africa. As Jolene once said, "No song called 'Mama Africa' is upbeat." Check the soundcloud link for lyrics to that too (definitely recommended). The UFO dudes claim to have sold 10,000 copies of their recent mixtape straight from their backpacks by approaching people on the street in Nairobi, busting a freestyle, and then selling the CD to interested parties. That's the grind.
Soul Afriq - Live Demo Soul Afriq - Live in Kisumu by RawMusicInternational Soul Afriq, aka our friend Brian, is a purely artistic person--a painter, jewelry maker, philosopher, poet, and musician. This stuff just seems to come to him. He's relatively new at playing music and still working out his sound, but I recorded him whenever I could and loved some of his tracks. This is a sample from a concert he played one night.
Orono- Live Nyatiti Jam Orono- Live Nyatiti Jam by RawMusicInternational Orono, another 80 year old local music legend. Deep in the countryside, Orono plays the nyatiti, a traditional Luo 8 string instrument that is plucked with both hands and tapped with one foot, covered in bells. Orono has been the local nyatiti master for decades, and we caught him playing for an excited crowd at a busy busa club. The call and response, improvised lyrics, and general raw power come through a bit in this recording. Just imagine you're drinking some warm fermented corn alcohol and dancing in the heat.
Dozze na Zealous - Mambo Baddest Dozze na Zealous -- Mambo Baddest by RawMusicInternational Dozze and Zealous were young dudes recording tracks out of a tiny tin studio they built by hand outside of Zealous' mom's crib. I love this song because we were recording them while they wrote and recorded it, and Ozzy even makes an appearance as an ODB style screaming Somali pirate at the end of the tune. Good times.
I learned a lot about Kisumu's music, but one of my favorite parts of the trip was sharing songs from around the world with all these other music nerds I met. DJs Rankin T and Expery gave me a serious reggae history lesson and introduced me to artists I'd never heard, and there were some excellent club tracks from worldwide that I can't leave out. At the same time, I introduced LaFam and the crew to some heavy rap and dub music, jams I knew they'd like but that hadn't made it to Kenya yet. Here are a few songs from all those categories:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1gNDjT0_6g Tarrus Rilely - Wildfire One of Ozzy's favorite songs, Jamaica's Tarrus Riley was always playing at the club. It's the kind of vaguely uplifting, catchy, fight the system (what system or what fight is never made explicit) tune that makes reggae the peoples' music.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_GkE27-3KI J.Boog - Let's do it Again Serious guilty pleasure, this song uses the same riddim as the Tarrus Riley song and was even more popular. The guy is of Polynesian descent from the US, although Kenyans seem convinced that he's Mexican. Regardless, girl I wanna be more than a friend...to ya.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxn0yN_vW_Y Don Carlos - Knock Knock Don Carlos was the first reggae musician DJ Expery heard. He had one of Jamaica's smoothest voices from the lover's rock movement (tough competition), and I listened to this song on repeat the last few weeks.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CvfDuwHvjg Bunny Wailer - Baldheaded Woman Rasta no want no baldheaded woman, ok? Got it? After hearing Abbas from Anchoras telling me about throwing away a precious set of drums because it was made with the skin of animals and didn't fit into the Rastafarian ital lifestyle, I understand Bunny's complaints here a bit better. No one should be messing with rasta's ital stew.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWx-CJvZMBE Augustus Pablo - Keep on Dubbing On New Year's Eve Ozzy, LaFam and I ate a strange plant based stimulant and freestyled to the spaced out disjointed dub music of Augustus Pablo until our voices went hoarse. Pablo and his weird sound manipulations are kind of a cult classic amongst reggae fans in the US, but his sound hadn't made it to Kenya yet. I love this music and will never forget that night when I hear it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzkvvAGcoqc UGK - One Day It wasn't all pretty vibes and island music. Rap is extremely popular in Kenya, but a lot of our underground shit doesn't make it over. Houston's UGK were a huge hit with my friends, mostly because of Pimp C's incredible production style and ear for samples. This is Southern rap-soul at its greatest, and it translated across borders with serious impact.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kTKpkf6kKs&feature=related Moses Radio and Weasel - Sweeter than Kuku This was another club jam, usually played with a bit of a harder beat under it. The chorus is basically "you are sweeter than chicken / you are the salt in my soup" which for some reason was really cute and nice on the dancefloor. These guys are from Uganda I believe.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfSayhGqR10 Twin Shadow - Shooting Holes Strangely enough, this was my most played song in Kenya. None of my Kenyan friends liked it ("What the hell is THIS!?"), and I don't even usually like this music, but for some reason I was playing it nonstop.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oflNyTAyGQA Kurt Vile - Huchback "Rock music" in Kenya means 3 Doors Down and Nickleback (and there are apparently a lot of bands playing this type of music in Nairobi). My Kenyan buddies hadn't heard anything quite as simple and good as Kurt Vile's "Hunchback", one of my favorite songs, but one thing I learned is that the headbang is a universal reaction to the electric guitar played between 80 and 160 bpm. It's not something you need to teach, and rastas headbanging is a great sight.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=584_beDKTBc Gregory Isaacs - Extra Classic Ozzy stole Isaacs' hairdo, and Jamaica's smoothed out version of Snoop Dogg was always playing in public transport vehicles in Kisumu. After a long day, sometimes the only thing that could chill you out was an extremely loud blast of Isaacs in a crowded swerving vehicle. Some days it felt like music was the only thing keeping Kenya going.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0-4Ts_mMes Blind Willie Johnson - Keep your lamps trimmed and burning I actually listened to the Fred McDowell version of this song, but this is also a beautiful version. These guys were like America's Dishon Olima. The people who went out and recorded all these old songs are definitely an inspiration. This was early morning music.