One perk of this RMI deal is getting to correspond with other (even more obsessive) fans of music around the world. Over the past few days I've been emailing with people running some amazing projects...
KenTanza is an archive of 45rpm recordings released in Kenya and Tanzania from independence until vinyl was phased out by cassettes in the mid 70s. At this point the archive lists almost 5,000 different releases, and while you can't listen to the music, you can track the incredibly convoluted recording histories of some of the region's great artists.
One interesting thread that runs through the archive is the work of A.P. Chandarana, a producer based in Kericho, the center of Kenya's Rift Valley tea growing operation. The guy started recording in 1958 and put out literally thousands of records on different subsidiary labels. Apparently his family owned a shop in Kericho which recently closed. If I knew about the Chandarana empire before I left I definitely would have stopped by and tried to learn more about the life of Kenya's major music mogul/shop owner.
Tim from KenTanza also did a little research on Olima Anditi, the wonderful 83 year old guitarist we recorded in Manyatta (video and audio). Employing an eye for detail honed by his years of tracking record releases, Tim noticed that in earlier blog posts I referred to Olima Anditi as Dishon Olima. That's what people told us he was called the first time we met him, although later we learned that he referred to himself as Olima Anditi. In any case, Tim searched out both aliases of our man in Manyatta, and found that a certain Dickson Olima was credited with writing two songs for Ogaja Jazz Band on a single released by the Upendo label in what he believes was the mid-70s.
Olima himself would probably never believe that a guy in London and a guy in Chicago are retroactively searching out his recording past, and my interaction with Tim taught me a lesson for the future. When I spoke with Olima I always asked about his life--where he was born, how he learned the guitar, how he survived day to day. But I should have also spent some time learning about his recording and performing history--dates, people, labels, places--in order to put his music into larger context. Something to keep in mind next time I meet an octogenarian guitar legend in a ghetto bar.
Tim told me the vinyl recording Dickson Olima (perhaps Olima Anditi) recorded so long ago is stored at the Voice of America's music archive in Washington D.C., leading me to another amazing site and body of work...
Leo Sarkisian has been collecting music in Africa since 1963, and most of it is housed at the VOA's massive archives in Washington D.C. I'd like to visit, digitize the Ogaja Jazz Band record Tim told me about, and send the recording to Kenya so Olima can hear it. After seeing how happy he was to hear the songs we recorded of him in Kisumu (video here), I can only imagine what he'd think hearing a forgotten vinyl record he worked on decades ago.
Matthew LaVoie, who worked with Leo Sarkisian, runs the African Music Treasures blog, and that describes it perfectly. In-depth articles, complete with rare audio, take you through music scenes in different African countries with the steady hand and ear of a seasoned professional.
More music and interesting sites to come. In the meantime don't forget to buy your RMI compilation CD, $8 ppd anywhere in the states. Act soon--this shit is selling like hotcakes. This is true because I don't think people sell hotcakes anymore. Very sad. Email me (cyrus AT rawmusicinternational DOT com) to get your hands on one--featuring exclusive cuts by Olima, Orono and 14 other Kisumu artists.