Owiny Sigoma Band

Owiny Sigoma BandIt is very rare that I am presented with a sound that is completely new and almost alien to me. I have been listening to music from all parts of the globe since I was a very young sprog and I do not think I have ever heard a mix of styles and origins as complex and dense as this – it is completely brilliant.

The story behind Owiny Sigoma band is long and as complex as the music and involves a mixture of a London collective with diverse African influences including Fela Kuti and Thomas Mapfumo, meeting with local musicians Joseph Nyamungu, a teacher and player of the nyatiti, and Charles Owoko, a Luo drummer, in Nairobi, under the wing of a local couple, Hetty Hughes and Aaron Abraham, whose voluntary organisation ‘Art of Protest’ was formed to promote and stimulate exactly that type of mixture.
The mixture of all the influences and styles has resulted in an album that is bass and beats heavy but loaded with just about every different variation of style and form.

Kicking off with a call and response chant over a mesmeric shuffle-beat with what sounds like a flute parping in the foreground it all sounds the wrong way round – the vocals back in the soundstage, the beats in the front and instruments and sounds wining in and out of the mix seemingly at will – once you start listening you are hooked.
The second number, ‘Odero Lwar’, sounds like traditional chanting over percussion but there is a weird little organ sound – like a Casio or a Farfisa – carrying the beat alongside the drums and vocals.
‘Wires’ is the next number up and the guitars are sounding jangly and sweet, the vocals are definitely Western and it sounds like it could have been recorded in Nairobi or Soweto or Clapham at various times from the ‘70’s through the ‘80’s and into today.
‘Margaret Okudo’ is a real piece of dub, basslines up front and all the studio trickery you could wish for.
For me, the real highlight is a solo piece ‘Owegi Owandho’ with some stirring vocals over a simple beat and nyatiti but that is run close by the closer ‘Rapar Nyanza’ which features all the musicians and a stirring vocal.

Every track has an identity – the musicians change, the rhythms vary from track to track and the singing styles are unique number after number.
One of the most exciting albums – in a subtle way – that I have heard this year.