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The Ari are highland farmers from the northwest corner of Ethiopia, and their community songs are simply remarkable. Making use of the full range of possibilities in the human voice by varying registers, timbres, and vowel resonance, they weave two or more countermelodies into grand polyphonies that are startling in their intricate, endlessly unfolding patterns. Occasionally accompanied by handclaps, tambourines, zithers, or flutes, it is difficult to not think of tape loops or synthesizers while listening to these 20 tracks, but it is human voices making this joyous, eerie music. The use of flutes here is also interesting, since generally there are two flutes moving in staggered melodies against and across each other, at times managing to sound somewhat like a wheezing calliope. Scholars and ethno-musicologists will undoubtedly get the greatest use from this disc, but it is stirring and strange enough to intrigue the casual listener as well.
Ethiopia - Ari Polyphonies (flac 335mb)
01 Alla Killa 1:43
02 Shungi Ashta 3:37
03 Ishka 4:14
04 Babi Weyssa 3:31
05 Gogi Weyssa 1:29
06 Weya 6:08
07 Shungul Atri 3:44
08 Alla Geyscha 3:41
09 Shungi Gogi 3:18
10 Weyssa 9:24
11 Anipuq 2:44
12 Woni Lekha, Chant De Fauchage 5:12
13 Yesso 4:56
14 Shungul Shambuko 3:23
15 Lalare 5:10
16 Shungi Weya 1:06
17 Shungi Gayl 2:59
18 Shungi Dinkti 2:11
19 Shungi Ishka 2:14
20 Alla Killa 2:41
Ethiopia - Ari Polyphonies (ogg 170mb)
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The music of East Africa is far less familiar to most international aficionados those of Mali, Senegal, Congo or South Africa. But Kenya, in particular, offers a cornucopia of indelible grooves that demand to be heard and celebrated. Sultry yet sparkling Swahili rumba and local variations on the ubiquitous Congolese soukous trend (both descended from Cuban sources) exist side-by-side with crisp, throbbing Benga combos and graceful, earthy, Indian/Islamic-influenced Taarab orchestras. All make elegant, delicious listening but modern trends from the USA and elsewhere are also seeping in. Nyota Ndogo's sexy lead singer sounds like a saltier Sade on "Chereko" while Gidi Gidi Maji Maji's rap track "Ting Badi Malo" sounds like, well, hip-hop in another language. Pick hit: Suzzana Owiyo's "Kisumu" wherein dueling male and female lead singers and a sweet-sour chorus are underpinned by acoustic guitars and what sounds like Pygmy flutes, a Brazilian surdo drum and shrieking cuica. -
The detailed annotations by music compiler, Douglas Paterson, help even the seasoned world music listener to better tackle the daunting task of deciphering this record's varied music styles. Eleven featured artists represent four distinct Kenyan music styles namely, 1). Western Kenyan roots benga (D.O. Misiani & Shirati Jazz, Queen Jane, Kakai Kilonzo); 2). Mombasa or coastal Taarab (Miraj Juma & Jauhar Orchestra, Zuhura Swaleh & Mombasa Party); 3). Swahili Rhumba (Gelden Sounds Band) and, 4). Kenyan rap or the sounds of the new `hip-hop' generation (Nyota Ndogo, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, Yunasi, Suzzana Owiyo, Kenge Kenge Orutu Systems).
No one's going to deny that the music of Kenya can be complex, drawing from many sources, but this compilation successfully and credibly reduces it to four main elements -- the home-grown, guitar and bass-driven benga sound, East African rhumba, which takes its inspiration from Congolese rhumba (which in turn is rooted in Cuban rhumba), the coastal Islamic taarab music, and some newer material which offers ideas ranging from updates of traditions to hip-hop. For Western listeners, the benga pieces are possibly the easiest on the ear, pulsing and rhythmic, with elastic basslines that curiously recall South Africa. It's infectious and very danceable, from the pioneering work of D.O. Misiani (who still presides over the genre), to singer Queen Jane. There's only one example of the rhumba style, which has mainly been the province of older musicians like the no longer extant Golden Sounds Band, whose "Hasidi Hana Sababu" is a prime example of the laid-back style. Rhumba does still exist in Kenya, but it's very much a dying art. That's not true for taarab, which is far more hypnotic, inflected with Arab and even Indian modes. Uniquely Swahili, it's most evident on the coast and in Zanzibar, and although it's most often heard at weddings, it's become a popular recorded music. Thankfully, a good portion of this CD is reserved for younger artists who are leading the way into the future. Nyota Ndogo, for instance, updates the taarab sound gorgeously, while Suzzana Owiyo proves to be a wonderful singer with a strong acoustic and traditional base to her music while still sounding contemporary. Gidi Gidi Maji Maji opt for hip-hop, and have become very popular in Kenya. However, the track included here seems to be nothing special, drawing more from America than anything at home. The excellent liner notes are succinct and straightforward, while still offering full explanations and background.
There is so much to be had on this introduction into the world of Kenya and East Africa. It provides many starting points into entirely separate tribal musics and styles, so that, for instance, a new benga fan can seek out the history of this traditional music’s heritage, digging deep for its forebears. Providing perspective and creating respect for other cultures’ music is the most important role in bringing this music to an international audience.
The Rough Guide To The Music Of Kenya (flac 383mb)
01 Queen Jane - Nduraga Ngwetereire 5:10
02 GidiGidi MajiMaji - Ting' Badi Malo 4:26
03 Nyota Ndogo - Chereko 3:16
04 Kakai Kilonzo - Mama Sofi, Pt. 2 4:00
05 Miraj Juma & Jauhar Orchestra - Muhogo 4:02
06 Suzzana Owiyo - Kisumu 100 6:33
07 Golden Sounds Band - Hasidi Hana Sababu 7:50
08 Yunasi - Yamala (Responsibility) 4:31
09 Daniel Owino Misiani & Shirati Jazz - Beatrice #4 7:21
10 Mombasa Party / Zuhura Swaleh - Tweta 4:43
11 Kakai Kilonzo - Mama Sofi, Pt. 1 5:11
12 Kenge Kenge Orutu Systems - Obura Jabilo 8:20
The Rough Guide To The Music Of Kenya (ogg 151mb)
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Zairean vocalist and band leader Samba Mapangala has been a dominant figure in East African music since the mid-1970s. Arriving in Kampala, Uganda with his group, Les Kinois in 1975, they eventually made their way to Nairobi in 1977. The beginnings of the famous Virunga sound were already evident in their recordings prior to the breakup of Les Kinois in 1980. Shortly after that, Samba recorded the now famous Malako recordings in Nairobi with his newly formed Orchestra Virunga. The Malako LP was one of the pioneering releases of the newly emerging world music scene in Europe in the mid-1980s and an instant favorite. The style was typical of other East African groups of the time: a lean sound with complex, interlocking guitar lines; rapid-fire bass; light, fast-paced percussion; with horn or sax overlays. What was different about Samba and Virunga was the quality of the product. The songs began with Samba's catchy melodic lines and evolved over a nine or ten minute period through beautiful vocal harmonies and brilliant guitar and horn soloing. Samba's voice, even today, is unique among African vocalists for its pleasing quality and versatility.
Virunga's East African roots are, no doubt, one of the primary factors that set them apart from other Zairean bands. At the same time, it is perhaps because of their East African base that they haven't really had a chance to develop on the world music scene. The band has been hampered by work permit problems, Nairobi's deteriorating but expensive recording facilities, and Kenya's shrinking live music market that makes it difficult to keep a large band together. Samba Mapangala and Virunga went to UK in April 1991 and played 23 concerts, not surprisingly causing a terrific buzz. After celebrated journeys through Africa, Europe and North America, Virunga last toured in 1997. Samba then settled with his family in Washington D.C. Samba Mapangala made a triumphant return with his CD Ujumbe (The Message). Samba's albums to date include Virunga Volcano (1990), Evasion (1983), Feet on Fire (1991), Karibu Kenya (1995) recorded in Paris with Les Quatres Etoiles and other veteran musicians, Vunja Mifupa (1997) released on cassette in East Africa as Confusion and in 2001, Ujumbe. Virunga Roots Volume 1, featuring songs from the Orchestra Virunga archive, was released in 2005.
In 2000 Samba's presence at the Kenyan Jamhuri celebrations in London was one of the major highlights. His music is timeless, sounding as fresh after the 100th hearing it as it did the 1st. The lyrics, often containing advice or social commentary, are charming and interesting, the melodies delightful, energetic and exuberant. In May 2004 Samba went on a 2-week concert tour in Tanzania after a 7-year absence. He performed with an all-star lineup of musicians based in Kenya and Tanzania. Samba's latest album is Song and Dance (2006) on virungarecords featuring Bopol and other great members of Orchestra Virunga. They promoted the album and other great hits during a very energetic UK tour in March 2006. Samba was in Kenya for a major event, Ecofest, on 4th June 2006 alongside other well-known Kenyan musicians. Samba and Orchestra Virunga were back in East Africa early in 2009 as they performed in Nairobi and at Zanzibar's Sauti za Busara festival. Towards the end of 2009 Samba joined forces with World Wildlife Fund and released a free mp3 download 'Les Gorilles des Mantagnes' (The Mountain Gorillas). The song calls for support of endangered and rare mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park.
Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga - Virunga Volcano (flac 244mb)
01 Malako 9:03
02 Ahmet Sabit 9:21
03 Virunga 8:55
04 Yembele 10:08
Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga - Virunga Volcano (ogg 103mb)
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