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Introducing Kenge Kenge

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Album Review

If you want to hear the real roots of Kenyan benga music, then the eight-member Kenge Kenge is the place. Resolutely acoustic, they hew closely to the tradition rather than the modern electric style, singing in Luo. The material is a mix of the traditional, such as "Owang' Winyo" and the self-composed, with cuts like "Otenga," which is based on a Luo dance style. With fiddles, flutes and horns, as well as the native nyangile, it's a glorious noise, with plenty of riveting vocals. To be fair, it's probably not something to draw a large audience, even among world music fans. Although excellently and clearly recorded, it's simply too raw for mass consumption, uncompromising in its approach. Artistically, however, that's an excellent quality. It might be in your face, but there's great beauty in that.


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Perhaps the foremost sound in Kenya is the benga rhythm, and Kenge Kenge (who began as "Kenge Kenge Orutu System") are among the foremost of the younger generation exploring the music. The name, which comes from the Luo language, means "fusion of small, exhilarating instruments." Formed in the early '90s by Amdo Jawaya and Samuel Nyariwo, they began as musicians backing (really) the Catering Levy Trust Choir. Within a few years they'd grown out of that supporting role under their new leader George...
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Introducing Kenge Kenge, Kenge Kenge
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