• Denholm Hewlett

[Music/Culture] Owiny Sigoma Band

An incredible Kenyan/English supergroup. A collection of glorious hypnotic Afro groove fusions symbolic of the culture clash between the Luo & London.

The original genesis and unusual backstory behind The Owiny Sigoma Band started back in January 2009, when five adventurous London musicians embarked on a voyage to Nairobi to meet and collaborate with the native Kenyan Musicians, with no real agenda other than to immerse themselves in the culture, get to know the people and their surroundings, and to facilitate some form of musical exchange with the local musicians. This trip ultimately resulted in the formation of an ingenious multi-ethnic supergroup that would produce three remarkable albums together.

~ Meet the two Kenyan musicians at the heart of Owiny ~

The UK crew of Owiny Sigoma includes keyboardist/singer Jesse Hackett (Metal Preyers, Teeth Agency), his bass-playing brother Louis Hackett (Louis Slipperz), jazz drummer Tom Skinner, and guitarist Sam Lewis and Chris Morphitis, who also ended up doubling up on Boyzouki.

The initial expedition to Nairobi was a cross-culture project partly facilitated by Art of protest, a voluntary organisation that focuses on promoting musicians and funding multi-cultural collaboration. Art of Protest sowed the seeds of Owiny Sigoma Band by introducing the Londoners to Joseph Nuamungu, an old school master of the eight stringed lyre, the Nyatiti, a 250 year old Kenyan instrument. Joseph then drafted in his drumming partner and longtime friend, Charles Owoko, a prodigy of the Nyiduonge drums. Once this ensemble got together and formed, the stage was set for an incredible multi-ethnic fusion to take place.

These veteran Kenyan musicians bestowed the Londoners with a power punch of cultural knowledge regarding the traditional music of their tribe, the Luo of western Kenya. This unique ensemble quickly bonded and started jamming together. Their first bunch of recordings took place over a four day marathon session in an abandoned factory in the centre of a vast potato market. The boys returned over a year later to visit their Kenyan friends for several more days of recordings and this resulted in their first self titled record project in 2011, which featured the fantastic single "Wires".

The boy's first album is a true culture clash record, casting a wide spectrum of experimental and traditional fusion sounds spread from across the map. Although the album is very raw and sometimes feels rough around the edges, the group's first project is a uniquely charming, dynamic and immersive project of ultra talented musicians breaking boundaries.

It was during the recording of the band's second album, POWER PUNCH (2013) that the group's style evolved and became fully realised, experimental electronic textures and soundscapes mixed with traditional West Kenyan lyre instrumentation to produce a collection of infectiously hypnotic afro-electro fusions which cemented Owiny Sigoma's sound and propelled the Luo/London supergroup in a brand new uncharted sonic territory. Bubbling keyboards, razor sharp bass grooves, thumping drum machine poly-rhythms, hypnotising lyre melodies, airtight jazz percussion, all blended with Joseph's tough Luo rap mantras and Jesse Hackett's mellow and smooth vocals.

The group's third and final album, NYANZA (2015), went even deeper into the realms of electronica and afro-acid-house, producing a genre-defying album bursting with crunchy electro drum and bass grooves with synthesised exotica trance rhythms. The Londoners described this album as their chance to really get close to the roots of Kenyan music, and learn more about the history and culture of Nairobi. This stunning follow up to Power Punch would ultimately be Owiny Sigoma Band's last project together with the original line-up, as Charles Owoko tragically passed away over a year later. Please enjoy a selection of the group's music below, including some stellar tracks, videos, performances and a documentary for NYANZA.

This article is dedicated to the memory of the late Charles Owoko

https://owinysigomaband.bandcamp.com ~ Support the Artists

~ Psychic Garden