• Denholm Hewlett

[Music] Black Savage

Introducing the rare and rebellious East-African psychedelic funk-rock of BLACK SAVAGE, an ensemble of young, confident and talented Kenyan musicians responsible for creating Nairobi's first rock band.



The story of the Black Savage Band... Informed by the Vinyl liner notes written by Emmanuel Mwedwa, Nairobi, March 2018


Among all the ground-breaking outfits to emerge from Kenya's golden age of musical growth, (1970s till the 1980s) was Black Savage, whose out of circulation, rare and hard to find tracks are now finally available to the world at large. The genesis of this remarkable band, who rose to prominence while riding the short-lived experimental creative streak of the late 70's, consisted of four young students, the late Gordon 'Simone' Ominde, Noel Drury Sanyanafwa, Job Seda and Fred Ayugi - whose self-driven, creative skills spawned the pioneers of an aspiring band. Their individual efforts became pivotal in the capitals fledging 1970s urban music scene, when they began morphing into the nucleus of what became Nairobi's first ever rock band - BLACK SAVAGE. This crew of students were expected to follow in scholarly footprints but these young men were hellbent on pursuing their individual artistic passion, a decision that became realised while still in high school.



At a time when most parents expected their sons to pursue white--collar jobs or professional careers, the members of Black Savage were adamant on making a living out of music and following their creative dreams. The budding musicians conscious pursuit and determination was a daring decision, impressing many people with their defiant confidence and subtle sense of rebellion, earning them opportunities to perform live and start recording their own collection of songs. The Black Savage band included leader Gordon Ominde (Golden Simone) (guitar), Barrack Achieng (bass), Job Seda (Ayub Ogada) (percussion), Noel Drury Sanyanafwa (drums), Jack Odongo (keyboards) - most of the members are descendants of the Luo.



Outside of Kenya the group's output has been mostly obscured until a 2018 reissue of their work spread like wildfire through the internet, but they were still quite popular among Nairobi youth in the 1970s. Their catalog consists of one LP and three singles from the mid-'70s and early 80s, and has all remained out of print ever after. The group's beloved songs include Savaged, Sharpseville, Problems, Grasslands, Exotica, Do you Really Care, I Don't Know What to Do, and a soulful rendition of the traditional Kothbiro.



One of the band's earliest recorded songs included Savaged - composed by Gordon Ominde. The lyrics express the odds the band endured in the years prior to their recording sessions ~ "Black savage riding high / hard times we have had... but we'll reach the promised land / the world is a crazy place... we know what we gonna face / we going show you how to do it...can you feel the groove?" he sings, as his guitar wizardry comes into the spotlight, echoing inspirational elements of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and The Beatles.



The numerous hurdles the group members encountered whilst forming their ambitious band, possibly by their families and peers in their generation, are further echoed in the song Problems - whose lyrics are sung by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Job Seda ~ "Everybody knows you got problems and that the way it goes / you're hustling up and down... It's gonna drive you crazy / no one seems to care... what you do or what you say / walking through the streets... with hunger in my soul..." sings Job Seda.



Equally notable is Sharpeville - The melancholic overtones complement haunting guitar chords and mournful baseline. The recording was triggered by the bloody 1976 Soweto Uprising, but also served as a reminder of the Sharpsville killings of the 1960's, where at least 69 peaceful protestors were shot dead and hundreds injured. The song's lyrics are distinct, and stand out as a socio-politico commentary on the morally illegal state of emergency enforced by an inhuman, repressive South African apartheid regime...


"Sharpeville massacre... open your eyes... see the people dying... victims of evil... hopeless and helpless... see the injustice...open your ears...hear the screaming...hear the cries...no protection from injustice...don't you realise that its about time... that we solve the situation?" sings Jack Otieno.



The group's song Savage the Savage rallies behind a wildlife conservation cause, making a bold, thinly veiled controversial call to ban game hunting in Africa, as it's rampant escalation has resulted in an extensive reduction of large horned game species slaughtered for their ivory. The song demands that human beings start showing more compassion for the ancient creatures of the natural world, to save our animals from extinction before its too late.


The Lyrics for "Save The Savage"

The Full album is available to buy, stream and download on all music platforms! Psychic Garden's favourite tracks from album include Kothbiro, Fire, Problems, Savaged, and I Don't Know What to do.



~ Psychic Garden

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