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Experience Kenyan folk music at I-House concert

Kamatana, a musical duo from Kenya, will perform folk music from East Africa at a concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, at International House, 10 College Park in Davis. Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | December 27, 2011 |

Local residents are invited to start the new year with folk music from East Africa at a concert by Kamatana, a musical duo from Kenya, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3

The group will perform at International House, Davis, 10 College Park.

“Dominic Ogari and Samwel Osieko will share the traditions and sounds of Kenya with you as they bring the rousing folk music of East Africa across the Atlantic,” said Elisabeth Sherwin, I-House executive director.

“The obokano is their musical instrument of choice, which is rarely heard by Westerners. Its buzzing bass tone propels each song while the duo’s melodic singing floats on top of the rhythm.”

The obokano is a large bass lyre played by the Gusii tribe of Western Kenya. This instrument has been dubbed “the double bass of East Africa.” It has eight strings that produce a deep, buzzing sound reminiscent of a bass saxophone. When combined with vocals and percussion, it provides a strong rhythmic accompaniment.

The musical duo Kamatana — its name means “togetherness” — is dedicated to promoting the music of the obokano to a new audience.

Ogari and Osieko sing folk songs not only in their native Gusii language, but also songs from other tribes in Kenya such as the Luhya and Luo in the west and the Kiswahili-speaking peoples of the coast. They also compose new songs in a traditional style.

Ogari was born in 1974 into the Gusii tribe in the Nyamira district of Nyanza Province, western Kenya. After primary school, he began playing the obokano as well as the local drums and shakers.

He joined the cultural center, Bomas of Kenya, in 1994 as a music instructor and performed with them in Cairo and in Kampala, Uganda. In 1999, he joined the faculty of Kenyatta University to teach instruments including the obokano, ngutha and kayamba, as well as dances of various communities.

During his time with Kenyatta University, he performed in Istanbul; Dodoma, Tanzania; and Helsinki, Finland, where he collaborated with the Helsinki Polytechnic Band and the University of Uuru band. Today, he is a part of Kamatana as well as the fusion group Kachumbari Seven based in Nairobi, Kenya, where he lives.

Osieko was born into the Gusii tribe in 1975 in the Kisii district of Nyanza Province, Kenya. He has played several different instruments, including the kigamba, ngutha and obokano, since primary school.

He joined the Kenyan cultural center Bomas of Kenya in 1998, then went on to become a music instructor and composer for Mombasa Polytechnic in 2003. Since 2009, he has led the Kamatana group as chairman.

He has performed with Bomas of Kenya in Victoria, Seychelles and Zanzibar, Tanzania. In 2005, he performed in Tokyo, Japan.

Ogari and Osieko are in Seattle recording their first album. After the show in Davis, they will travel to the San Francisco Bay Area to perform a collaboration with famed didgeridoo master Stephen Kent.

The suggested donation for the Jan. 3 concert is $10. For more information, call (530) 753-5007 or visit www.internationalhousedavis.org.

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