Here in Athens, the city shuts down for August. Even the trusty woman who runs the bakery is off to Vegas for the rest of the month. Everything feels slow, hot, and covered in a film of exhaust. But, as usual, and seemingly despite ourselves, shit occurs. Some of that shit includes: THREE albums from Kenya coming your way in September:
1) Olima Anditi - Where Else Would I Be (Mississippi Records / Raw Music International)
A series of songs recorded with the great blind guitarist Olima Anditi in his rented room in the outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya on the very last day of 2010. Since then, I've been on a journey to establish the proper identity of old Olima. He shares a name with one of the first Kenyans to record on guitar. But the dates don't match up. An imposter? A fluke of history/biology? Last year I went back to western Kenya and tracked the old man down. He has no fixed address. He travels by bus and plays guitar at dives and drinking spots. For four days we followed him on his journey around Lake Victoria, and he told us the story. An honor to release this with the great Mississippi Records, a label I've looked up to and learned from over the years.
2) Usiende Ukalale (Don't Sleep) - Modern Omutibo from Kenya (Mississippi / Olvido / RMI)
In the late 1950s, George Mukabi invented a style of guitar music called "omutibo." A single guitar played like three, two sweet voices in harmony, and a spoon scraped against the ridges of a glass Fanta bottle for percussion. It was country music, and stood in stark contrast to the "Twist" music of the city (electric guitars, suits, flash and style). But it sold and sold. Mukabi was killed in 1963, but a generation of artists, many of them his family and neighbors, picked up the style and innovated.
On a trip through Western Kenya in search of information about Mukabi, I met many of these old artists. Some of them still played, and these wobbly, gorgeous tracks are the sound of the music today. Featuring legends like Shem Tube, Fanuel Amimo, and George's son Johnstone Mukabi.
3) George Mukabi - Furaha Wenye Guita (Mississippi / Olvido / RMI)
The great Mukabi. What can I say. Gordon Ashworth of Olvido Records first played me his music in Portland, and it's been a search to learn more about the man since then. This compilation includes newly mastered versions of some of his greatest tracks. It also includes an extensive oral history -- the story as told by those who knew him best. ALL of his recorded output will be available online. As with all these projects, proceeds go back to the family.
I've got guests. I have to go buy a (plastic) bottle of wine. Next time, I'll tell you about the two movies we're releasing this fall. It's gonna be good.