Geoffrey Oryema

Geoffrey Oryema - Exile


Exile introduced the world to the struggles of singer-songwriter Geoffrey Oryema, exiled from Uganda at a young age.

At the age of 24, at the height of Idi Amin’s power and following the death of his father, a prominent government minister, in a mysterious car accident, Oryema had to be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car, thus beginning a life in exile. This exiled existence has been the theme of many of his songs.

His songs keep alive the languages and folklore of his youth when he was surrounded by a close-knit family of singers, dancers and musicians. On this record Geoffrey is accompanied by Peter Gabriel — a big fan — on backing vocals, Brian Eno on keyboards and vocals, Gabriel’s guitarist David Rhodes, and David Bottrill on percussion.

Originally released in 1990.

Available on vinyl for the first time since its original release – 180g black vinyl, with digital download card.

Buy (Real World) Buy (Amazon)

Geoffrey Oryema - Exile


Side A

01 Piny Runa Woko
02 Land of Anaka
03 Piri Wango Iya
04 Ye Ye Ye
05 Lacan Woto Kumu

Side B

06 Makambo
07 Jok Omako Nyako
08 Solitude
09 Lubanga
10 Exile


Songs written by Geoffrey Oryema (published by WOMAD Music Ltd) except ‘Land of Anaka’ by Geoffrey Oryema and Brian Eno (published by WOMAD Music Ltd/Upala Music Inc)

Recorded and mixed at Real World Studios
Produced by Brian Eno
Co-produced by David Bottrill
Engineered and mixed by David Bottrill
Assistant Engineer Richard Blair

Geoffrey Oryema: vocals (all tracks), nanga (1, 5), guitar (2, 4, 6, 8, 10), lukeme (3, 7, 9), bass (3, 9), shaker (4, 7), backing vocals (4), percussion (5), djembe (10), finger cymbal (10). David Bottrill: percussion (1, 3), bass (4, 6, 10), drums (4), hairy drum (6), Senegalese shakers (9). Brian Eno: backing vocals (1, 2), yamaha (2), piano (2), backing vocal texture (6). Richard Evans: tin whistle (2). Peter Gabriel: backing vocals (2), fake organ (4). David Rhodes: slide guitar (4), 12-string guitar (8), electric guitar (10). Michelle Newbury: backing vocals (4). Richard Blair: brushes (6), guitar texture (8).

A Real World Design by Marc Bessant

Original design by Helen Jones @ Assorted Images
Photography by Francis Drake

Liner Notes

Every night as a child in Kampala, Geoffrey Oryema would sit by his father’s side and listen to him playing the nanga, a seven-string harp. He was lucky enough to grow up absorbing both the folk music of his culture through traditional routes, and Western techniques through his schooling. His father was a minister in Idi Amin’s government and the family’s position in the Uganda’s ruling class proved disastrous. Geoffrey was twenty-four in February 1977 when his father was secretly assassinated.

Exiled in France, Geoffrey perfected his lukeme (thumb piano), flute, and nanga techniques. Today his songs keep alive the languages of his youth — Swahili and Acoli (pronounced ‘Acholi’) — and the folklore he learned when surrounded by storytellers, poets, and singers at home.

“Music accompanies everything in my culture. There is music for digging in your garden; to accompany the dead to their final resting place; if there is a visit by the head of state, it will be sung about. This music is not dead; it will never die. It is constantly changing, renewing itself. I even hear music when I am fixing a bug in a computer.”
The songs in which Geoffrey explores his feelings since leaving Uganda return continually to that lost country – the “clear green land” in which all they invested of their lives and dreams are shattered.

“… remembered through Swahili and Acholi folk songs … Oryema’s pain is pure sadness, with his voice and his primary instruments – the lukeme (a thumb piano) and the nanga (an eight stringed harp).” Think Africa Press (UK)

“Exile showcases the musical politics of a gentle man.”
The Beat (1991) (USA)

About the Artist

Geoffrey Oryema
Geoffrey Oryema is from Uganda, the source of his musical roots. His work, however, has been inspired by myriad styles — a fully-realised absorption of Western pop, African traditions, and the creative need to define a very personal musical identity.

Oryema was born in Soroti, where his family were immersed in the country’s traditional cultures. He was encouraged by his father to play the nanga (a seven-string harp), and he also travelled around Uganda with his mother, a director of the national dance company The Heartbeat of Africa. Other members of the Oryema family were story-tellers, poets, and musicians. “I was struck by the musical disease at the age of seven,” he says.

As he entered his teens, Oryema learned how to play the guitar, flute and lukeme (a metal thumb-piano). He also began to write songs. It was inevitable that Oryema’s life would be involved in the arts and, in the early 1970s, he enrolled in Uganda’s Drama School of Academy. His career aspiration was to become an actor — an ambition developed by founding an African drama company, Theatre Ltd. He also wrote stage pieces which mixed traditional African theatre with the avant garde Method techniques pioneered by Stanislavski and Grotowski. The result was a very original ‘theatre of the absurd,’ embellished by African tribal sounds and improvisation. It was perhaps the first expression of Oryema’s ability to experiment with disparate cultures.

By the mid-70s, however, the political climate in Uganda was bleak. Oryema’s father was Idi Amin’s Minister of Land and Water Resources — an important role in the government. Amin’s rising tyranny, however, eliminated all political opponents and in February 1977 Oryema’s father was killed in a suspicious car crash. Geoffrey Oryema left his native country by crossing the border into Kenya. From there he travelled to France, where Oryema has lived in exile ever since.

Other Releases by this artist Official Website Facebook