Special Herbs Volume 27: Tasty Morsels / by Cyrus

Conscious Youths - Conserve de Trees (Kenya Reggae) by RawMusicInternational

Here we have a classic banger by Kisumu reggae group The Conscious Youths, starring Roy Captain and Ranking T. The song is called "Conserve de Trees" and is maybe the only underground reggae song to big up Wangari Maathai, Kenya's Nobel Prize winning environmentalist crusader.

Ranking gave me this CD the last time I was in Kenya several years ago, and I've been listening to it regularly since. I love this thing. Kenyan rastas often can't afford to buy instruments and amps, so many electric jams (as opposed to the acoustic reggae of Anchoras, featured below) are built entirely on keyboards and simple drum riddims. Roy Captain, the man responsible for the music here, is a talented keyboard player, and manages to build full and intricate jams with his limited tools.

When not creating conscious reggae anthems, Roy Captain plays keyboard in an O'hangla house band in Nairobi. O'hangla is traditional Luo funeral music that, with the addition of a bass drum and keyboards, has become a popular regional dance music, breaking tribal and language barriers and arriving on dance floors in Nairobi and as far as Tanzania and Uganda (for an example check this classic O'hangla jam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTzgnve2kfI&feature=related).

Unlike reggae, a music generally reserved for the poorer parts of town, O'hangla is a well respected form of music in the area, a style popular at clubs catering to wealthier Kenyans and foreigners as well as the masses. With his keyboard, Roy Captain regularly crosses the class barrier.

More treats: A couple weeks ago I spent the day with the extremely talented Chris Brown (http://www.myspace.com/christianmbrown), a Waterloo based recording engineer who has been recording music from the area for almost a decade now. Together, we went through the field recordings I did in Kenya and mastered them, a long process but one with great results. I'll have some examples of "remastered" tracks up soon.

Finally, here's some video, a short clip about how to properly eat tilapia lakeside in Kisumu and a very badly shot clip (sorry) of Ozzy Dan himself dancing impromptu.