320 kbps, LAME-encoded
Brownswood Recordings are happy to present the final installment of the critically acclaimed collaborative project, Owiny Sigoma Band, available across all streaming platforms on October 29th 2021.
“The project has always been a massive experiment,” notes Louis Hackett, the bassist and one fifth of the ever-fascinating Owiny Sigoma Band, whose fourth studio album ‘The Lost Tapes’ is to be released on Brownswood Recordings six years since their last full record. A coming together of traditional East African musical philosophies and a more electronically-inclined London sensibility, this record is rooted in an intricate percussive framework which yields a progressively cut sound, cohesively brought together via an impressive musical chemistry.
Founded in 2009, the Owiny Sigoma Band began during a cultural exchange project in Kenya entitled The Art of Protest. Producer Jesse Hackett, his brother Louis and school friend Tom Skinner were introduced to local musicians Joseph Nyamungu and Charles Owoko. Whilst both of them were singers, Nyamungu specialised in playing the Nyatiti, a stringed lute popular amongst the Luo people in western Kenya, whilst Owoko would play the Nydounge drum.
The record is split into two halves; the A-side having been recorded in Uganda, whilst the B-side was completed in Kenya. Although most of the project was recorded in 2019, this album is of a significant sentimental value since bandmember Charles Owoko very sadly passed away in 2015, shortly after they released their last record. The latter half of the project entails a number of recordings that Charles completed towards the end of his life – music that both Jesse and Louis Hackett describe as “stirring but special” - both a reminder and celebration of the pivotal role Owoko played in the band’s growth.
The Lost Tapes harbours a sophisticated set of sounds that seem to coalesce so seamlessly. For the Hacketts, the exploratory sound has had to grow naturally over the last decade in a way that has felt comfortable for both Owoko and Nyumungu. Louis explains, “They saw the results of our experimentation and came over to Europe to tour. As they saw the project form, more of a trust grew and that enabled us to expand on the experimental elements. They really encouraged us to sing which pushed us and created something slightly unusual.”
For Jesse, “There was never any agenda. It was always an open dialogue whereby things would be suggested and we would then all explore those ideas.” It was this openness that catered for the unique alignment of the rootsy, local east African sound and the slightly pop-inclined western vocals and electronics which created something noticeably unusual. The band’s growth has resulted in a timelessly sounding, fresh new project. This record oscillates between slowed-down sonic meditations that evoke an introspective sensibility, and up-tempo, groove-inclined bubblers that demand patience from the listener. The role of the drum is a fundamental one; particularly the coming together of Tom Skinner’s free-flowing patterns alongside the darker textures of Owoko’s drums. However, the variety of strings and vocals integrating throughout this project forges a poignant, emotive harmony that sculpts the sound, offering the record an extra dimension of depth.
The band have demonstrated their ever-expanding musical experimentation through incorporating two new instruments into this record too. Ugandan musician Lawrence Okelo offers an extra sonic spectacle through playing the Amadinda xylophone as well as the Adungu, an arched harp which varies between seven and ten strings, made from hollowed-out wood. It is this use of strings and delicate vocal arrangements which creates a balance against the harder sonic colours of the drums. The importance of the oral art-form is fundamental to the project’s existence since music has transcended language in allowing the band to establish their sound and identity. As well as the cultural dichotomy, the intergenerational element has added to the uniqueness of the Owiny Sigoma Band’s sound and The Lost Tapes is emblematic of how far they have come. It has taken a decade of working together, building a trust and experimenting with their disparate approaches to create a record as exceptional as this. It is a timeless piece of music that accentuates the importance of different cultures collaborating with sincerity and quality; an apt illustration of how to push culture forward with conflicting yet curious attitudes.
‘The Lost Tapes’ By Owiny Sigoma Band is released on digital format only on Friday 29th October via Brownswood Recordings.