I hate it when the backing instrumentation is better than the headlining singer. I do. It’s awkward. Kenyan by birth, later a migrant to the US, KG Omulo sounds smoothest when he’s singing in his first and most familiar language but things wobble when he switches into English, sometimes because the lyrics themselves are rote clunk (“Baby, you are the one”, “Show me just how much you care”), and sometimes because the inflections and enjambment are flat. The pause before “Happy” the first time he says, “I’m so happy” in “It’s a Relief” sounds as if it’s being dictated by the music rather than the feeling of the singer. Ideally the two should unite in some way, but often on Ayah Ye! Moving Train they seem to be fighting. He’ll repeat a line, but repeat it in more or less the same way, without the multitude of interpretations that would justify the repetition. But the line “No means no” has punch when he sings it. He’s at one with the song, he’s there. Omulo has good moments with this funk-rock-reggae blend of his, but the good moments don’t make a great whole.
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