The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Owiny Sigoma Band
Power Punch Richie Troughton , May 15th, 2013 10:23

Owiny Sigoma Band’s debut was released two years ago after a group of London-based musicians travelled to Kenya to collaborate with nyatiti master musician and music teacher Joseph Nyamungu and Luo drummer Charles Owoko. The results on the self-titled disc seemed to reflect on the visitors quickly learning from their hosts, as they produced a set of songs largely based on traditional Luo folk, comprised of irregular rhythms, with poppier songs like 'Wires’ and 'Here On The Line’ representing the English musicians’ influence.

Click here to listen and buy on eMusic

  Their second album, Power Punch!!!, sees the dynamic reversed, as the duo from Nairobi make the trip to London to this time learn a thing or two from the quartet of Jesse Hackett (vocals, keys), Louis Hackett (bass), Sam Lewis (guitar) and Tom Skinner (drums). The latter introduced some new musical styles to their guests, including shangaan electro, electronic and techno, inspiring the group to develop their sound exploring exciting new sonic territory.

  Opener 'Nagalo Ni Piny Odag’ picks up where the 2011 debut ended, desert blues-like nyatiti lines, and hand played percussion, but in the mix giving a hint of what is to come are arpeggiated synth tones. After just two-and-a-half minutes it is over, and the next track, 'Norbat Okelo,’ offers a surprising new direction that bears little resemblance to the group’s previous release. Drum machines and electronic submarine-like pops play at a coolly slow after-hours tempo, with conversational vocals from Nyamungu. Nyamungu’s nyatiti - an eight-string lyre on which strings are played with a violin-like bow – featured heavily on Owiny Sigoma Band, and while it still plays a key role, here the group bring electronic tools to the fore. By the third track the African and British influences meld, as Jesse Hackett takes over vocal duties on the deeper still depths of 'Sunken Wrecks’. This time clattering percussion and warped woozey synths are cut with clipped violin samples as the track progresses and bird-like flutes enter the mix, with backward phasing effects.  

'Lucas Malore’ sounds as if Nyamungu is giving an early morning wake-up call, excitedly telling his friends back home of a big night out in London, over a chorus of thumb pianos, upping the tempo after the slower opening trio of songs, this is an all-day party of a record after all. All of a sudden from the early morning urban haze it is like being dragged back out into the bright streets of Nairobi. The new dawn intro of 'Magret Aloor’ makes way for tightly coiled African guitar rhythms as the musicians come together, Nyamungu’s vocals making way for Hackett in the dubby chorus.  

The second half of the record begins with the upbeat Afro-pop funk of 'Harpoon Land’ before another unlikely diversion, this time into techno, on 'Owiny Techno,’ previewed on The Quietus recently. Acid basslines are punctuated by popping drums and strangulated calls from Nyamungu, who cries, "Africa! Africa!" claiming the new sound as his own, and at five and a half minutes it feels like it ends abruptly. That is not to underestimate what else this invigorated group have up their sleeves. 'Yukimwe’ is based on winding African guitar licks, wrapped up in spacey electronic textures.  

On this album, released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, the Owiny Sigoma Band have dared to make an album that pushes their ever-evolving sound into unexpected directions. The result is no sucker punch, but a knockout blow.