Olvido Records is a US-based label that restores and circulates obscure music from around the world – a dream label for anyone wanting to discover older sounds from cultures outside of America. A recent release of theirs that I’m really enjoying is Usiende Ukalale: Omutibo From Rural Kenya, a collection of acoustic guitar music from Kenya. To me it’s like listening to old John Prine or Mississippi John Hurt records – just a guitar and voice is all you need to tell a good story.
“‘Omutibo’, a uniquely Kenyan style of acoustic guitar music, was invented by George Mukabi in the late 1950s, and quickly adapted by his neighbors in a region that proved truly fertile for guitarists. In 2016, Cyrus Moussavi (Raw Music International) set out along the banks of the River Yala to document the songs of the old days. Recorded on location in homes and yards, these are the songs and stories of a golden era Kenya on the brink of Independence, beautifully resurrected by the songwriters themselves, over 50 years later. Featuring performances by, and interviews of: Johnstone Ouko Mukabi, Shem Tube, Fanuel Amimo, Jimmy Bongo, Sukuma Bin Ongaro, Peter Akwabi, Zachariah Omufumbwa, Omari Machio, and Johanias Kiunya.”
Though not unheard of, established African punk and metal scenes are not well known outside the continent. If you’re going to start anywhere, start with Nairobi’s Class Suicide, a mid-00’s hardcore punk band often credited to be one of the first hardcore bands in Eastern Africa. Debut album Storm The Gates doesn’t sound pretty, but it does everything a punk record should do and is compelling in how it engages and surprises.
Read more about the history of Nairobi’s fascinating punk and metal scene via OkayAfrica.
“Class Suicide was a band that brought the heavy metal and punk rock sounds of Nairobi together for 2 brief chaotic years. A politically driven bunch of crusty fellows from far away en Afrique (Nairobi, Kenya) Croe (guitars & vox) and Gearz (Bass), both formerly of the punk rock band Impish, joined forces with Adam (vox) and Kwame (percussion) who had been playing in heavy metal cover bands in late 2003. Croe had a tape in his car containing songs from: W.B.T.D., Tragedy and Catharsis. The band found common ground in the sounds and style of crust and within 2 weeks already written a handful of songs and performed live. The sound is of deep guttural vocals and violent tones and rhythm. This is balanced by melodies and rhythm both confident and delicate. The band has forged these qualities together with their live energy on their debut release ‘Storm The Gates’ originally released in December 2005 on CD in Kenya.”
Mabiisi is Art Melody and Stevo Atambire, an African hip-hop duo that first met in Accra, Ghana. The name means “brothers from a same mother” in the Frafra language and conveys the bond between these two acclaimed hip-hop artists who look to their heritage for inspiration for their music, which blends traditional country instrumentation with urban lyrical styles.
Their debut LP from last year rightfully earned much praise, and now there’s a new remix album in which top African DJs reinterpret each track.
“Mabiisi’s debut album has made its way into some of the most inspiring and respected radio shows and playlists around the world: the raw energy of the kologo and both Art Melody and Stevo Atambire’s powerful vocals have paved the way for shows and international tours in Europe and Africa. It only made sense to take the sound further and let a group of talented producers re-interpret the duo’s opus, and intersect it with their own sounds and aesthetics.
The result is a very creative and diverse set of remixes, a large half of them particularly suited for peak hour dance floor action, others more appropriate for – dare I say it – meditation!”