Kenyan singer-songwriter Ayub Ogada was a busker on London’s Northern Line when he came to Real World’s attention in the late 80s. And this 1993 set – his only record for the label – proved that it was a meeting of minds, with his disarmingly simple arrangements allowed to hang there unadorned, making a lasting impression. Simply backing himself (albeit with virtuosic ease) on an East African lyre called a nyatiti, this record introduced Ayub as a performer of great charm, his warm vocals never leaving centre stage.
Originally released in 1993.
Available on vinyl for the first time – 180g black vinyl, with digital download card.Buy (Real World) Buy (Amazon)
01 Obiero For Eric
02 Dala Home
03 Wa Winjigo Ero We hear you now!
04 Thum Nyatiti (Instrumental) Music of the Lyre
05 Kronkrohinko In praise of the great Queen of Africa
06 Chiro And during my travels…
08 Ondiek Hyena
09 Kothbiro It’s going to rain
10 En Mana Kuoyo Sand
All Tracks written and arranged by Ayub Ogada except, Kronkrohinko traditional arranged by Ayub Ogada; Chiro written by Sukuma Bin Ongaro arranged by Ayub Ogada; 10% written by Zak Sikobe and Ayub Ogada arranged by Ayub Ogada; Kothbiro written by Mbarak Achieng and the Black Savage Band, arranged by Ayub Ogada. Published by WOMAD Music Ltd/EMI Music Publishing Ltd
Recorded at Real World Studios, Wiltshire, UK, March 1993
Produced by Ayub Ogada and Richard Evans
Mixed by Richard Evans and Ayub Ogada
Engineered by Richard Evans
Musicians: Ayub Ogada: vocals, nyatiti, assorted percussion and flutes (imbele and wea); Zak Sikobe: electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass on En Manu Kuoyo; David Oladunni: djembé, panlogo, assorted percussion; Alex Gifford: double bass, piano on Ondiek and hammond organ; Geoffrey Oryema backing vocals on Chiro
A Real World Design
Original Design and Art Direction by Sy-Jenq Cheng at Assorted Images
Photography by Stephen Lovell-Davis
Since its initial release En Mana Kuoyo has become the stuff of world music legend. The album’s ten songs present a spacious, acoustic side of African music, one subtly imbued with modern sensibility. The production was ahead of its time in its simplicity, and it made a sharp contrast with the ever more elaborate, technically complex African music productions of its era.
This release marks the first time that the album has been made available on vinyl.
The album’s inclusion of collaborating artists from various countries qualified it as part of a growing movement of hybrid world music. But for the maestro himself, Ayub Ogada – who had already produced two “crossover” albums in his native Kenya – the session was more about shedding foreign affectations. It was an embrace of tradition that took him more profoundly into his African past than anything he had done before.
“I sat outside,” recalls Ayub. “I refused to record inside the studio. I played a concert outside. It took three hours. Then, the next day, we called the percussionist. The next day we called the guitarist. It took three days to record that album.” Though created quickly, En Mana Kuoyo had been years in gestation.
“It was my life encapsulated,” recalls Ayub. “A musician has to experience life; that is when you write new music. I’m interested in making history. If I do an album, it has to last.” En Mana Kuoyo has passed that test. Its music has been used in numerous film soundtracks and included on many music compilations.
Ayub’s principle instrument, the nyatiti lyre, is considered to be a woman. “When you start to play this instrument, you practically get married,” he once said. “She won’t like you to play another instrument. Suits me fine; I’m happily married.”
The nyatiti is used in spiritual practice and to sing historical praise songs. But it can also accompany humorous Luo songs, peppered with puns and proverbs, as well as songs delving into social realities. In short, it is a complete package, so it is no surprise that Ayub remains faithful to it to this day.
“..the finest songs are slow melodic ballads…or relaxed lilting pieces…that show off both the instruments delicacy and Ogadas thoughtful, intimate and soulful vocals.”
About the Artist
“When I went back to Kenya, Ayub once recalled, I had to relearn my language and some of the vernacular. Going to America was a culture shock, but going back to Kenya was another.”
While attending Catholic school in Nairobi, he played in a band called Awengele, and began experimenting with indigenous instruments. While in high school and performing in a rock band called Black Savage, he composed Kothbiro, an adaptation of a traditional song that would eventually wind up on his album En Mano Kuoyo. Ayub’s evident musical talent led to a position at the French Cultural Centre in Nairobi, where he composed modern and traditional music for theatrical productions.
Ayub’s life changed in 1979 when he became a co-founder of the African Heritage Band. His mentor and partner in this was an American, Alan Donovan, director of the Pan African Gallery. Donovan still lives in Nairobi, working on behalf of indigenous culture, and he recalls that his one requirement for African Heritage musicians was that they compose music, not copy it, and that they use African instruments and content in their songs. To this day, Ayub remains thankful for Donovan’s guidance, saying, “I would be nothing without this man.”
Ayub’s childhood dream was to become an astronaut, so he could escape the planet. That urge is still there, but today he dedicates himself to nurturing a wounded planet, rather than abandoning it. “Most of us live in stolen countries,” he says. “America is a stolen country. Canada is a stolen country. Australia is a stolen country. We are original, indigenous people, and we still have our strength. Jazz comes from me. Blues comes from me. Rock ‘n’ roll comes from me. We must gain our power back, and then we can feed this planet. Africans are waking up. We are at the bottom of a pile. That’s the best place to be, because the only way you can go is up.