What do you get when a group of London musicians travels to Nairobi, Kenya and meet up with a couple of natives who are equally as passionate about music? The Owiny Sigoma Band, of course. It wasn’t exactly planned. It all started when when Jesse Hackett (keys), Louis Hackett (bass), Sam Lewis (guitar), Chris Morphitis (bouzouki/guitar), and Tom Skinner (drums), headed to Kenya to participate in Art of Protest, a voluntary organization that promoted local music. After some musical idea swapping and cultural discoveries, the Londoners found teacher Joseph Nyamungo and drummer Charles Okoko, who resided in the village of Owiny Sigoma, and thus, the Owiny Sigoma Band was formed.
The newly formed seven-man outfit got together and started recording records right away. In 2011, they released their self-titled debut album. With that, the Owiny Sigoma Band introduced the world to a new style of music by blending traditional African music with something a little electronic. The result is a confused, yet elegant cultural experience of the tribal sounds of Kenya being bent with a modern touch. Owiny Sigoma Band’s second album, Power Punch!!!, continues along with the same musical style as innovated on the preceding album. While the novelty is gone for returning listeners, Power Punch!!! feels like a more polished album, as the Owiny Sigoma Band seems to have found their rhythm.
Power Punch!!! is lustrous and confident, packing heavy drums and smooth keyboard work. A strong artistic vision is carried through a concoction of Kenya nyatiti and Luo sounds fuzed with English influences in songwriting, production, and recording. The album is both powerful and upbeat, and the combination of contemporary African and modern Western musical techniques generally come together in a fluid harmony. Power Punch!!! offers a variety of sounds and experimental angles over the course of a tracklist that is 11 tracks strong. Rhythmic dance drums and English vocals on “Harpoon Land” lead into a surprising diversion on the next song, “Owiny Techno”. As the title would suggest, “Owiny Techno” sees the band diving into a very electronic sound, throwing distorted bass, rolling drums, and traditional Kenyan vocals out at the listener at 140 beats per minute. While the change-up takes just a little adjusting to, it won’t be long before you find yourself absorbed in the fast-paced beat, wanting to dance along.
The Owiny Sigoma Band continues to push the envelope and experiment with different music styles that many musicians wouldn’t dream of fusing together. This cross-cultural experimentation creates interesting results. While the music may not be for everyone, their is a certain crowd that will love this. If you’re someone who is constantly looking for something that sounds original, look no further, Power Punch!!! is definitely worth a shot. The Owiny Sigoma Band is especially going to be right up your alley if you love African music. The group successfully takes the distinguishable drums and textures from traditional Kenyan music and put a new and exhilarating spin on it.
// Notes from the Road
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