Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Song: Obama, by Extra Golden

The Kenyan-American fusion band Extra Golden blends rock with benga-- a guitar-heavy Kenyan dance music that's been around since the 1960s-- creating a groove so deep you can't see the bottom.

They came together through Ian Eagleson's doctoral research which brought him to study benga in Kenya. He and his band partner Alex Minoff teamed up with Otieno Jagwasi and Onyango Wuod Omari of Orchestra Extra Solar Africa to record an initial album in 2004, shortly before Otieno's untimely death.

They were invited to the 2006 Chicago World Music Festival, and Opiyo Bilongo (who, according to the band's website, "has been a dangerous presence on the Kenyan Benga scene for over a decade") stepped in for Otieno, with Otieno's brother, Onyango Jagwasi, contributing as an occasional songwriter and lyricist.

The trouble was, neither Opiyo nor Onyango Wuod Omari could get visas to the states. With their American partners pulling every string in sight, eventually they got help from Senator Barack Obama, and the two Kenyans were able to visit the U.S., traveling outside West Africa for the first time in their lives.

Out of gratitude to the Senator, their second album, Hera Ma Nono, features a song of thanks and praise titled "Obama." According to benga custom, the band also thanks his wife, Michelle, and his mother, Ann. Listen here, and enjoy the video clips of Barack being Barack, plus some sexy benga dancers.

After two years apart, the band reconvened this year for a tour. They received critical praise for their performance at Bonnaroo. They're still around, and if you've got any sense at all, you'll go see them. Those who share my musical tastes, take note: they're sharing the Prospect Park bandshell with Habib Koite on August 3rd!


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