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Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya

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Audio CD, May 17, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

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. --Christina Roden

1. Nduraga Ngwetereire - Queen Jane
2. Ting' Badi Malo - Gidi Gidi Maji Maji
3. Chereko - Nyota Ndogo
4. Mama Sofi Pt.2 - Kakai Kilonzo
5. Muhogo - Miraj Juma
6. Kisumu 100 - Suzzana Owiyo
7. Hasidi Hana Sababu - Golden Sounds Band
8. Yamala (Responsibility) - Yunasi
9. Beatrice #4 - D.O. Misiani
10. Tweta - Zuhura Swaleh
11. Mama Sofia Pt.1 - Kakai Kilonzo
12. Obura Jabilo - Kenge Kenge Orutu Systems

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 17, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: World Music Network
  • ASIN: B0001W30E0
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,304 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Walenta on May 22, 2010
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Delving ever further into the by now quite comprehensive world music Rough Guide Series records, I acquired Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya (World Music Network, c.2004, Total Running Time 65:30) in April 2009. It's taken me a year to get into this one but after many careful listens and doing a bit of background reading, I can now say that I enjoy this record very much. 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).

My favorite songs are performed by two of the modern women artists. Nyota Ndogo's "Chereko" has a catchy haunting melody that springs from the traditional Mombasa Taarab style, while "Kisumu 100" by Suzzana Owiyo contains elements of the west Kenyan roots benga style. The two excellent and haunting Taarab style songs had, prior to 2004, never been released. The four Kenyan music styles feature vibrantly pulsating rhythms, fluid electric guitar fills and lively (and occasionally haunting) melodious vocals.
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