Sober but oh so profound
From Trouw (Dutch Newspaper)
February 19th, 2016.
Long Tale Recordings
(Translated from Flemish)
Some types of music are sensational; listeners are roused by rhythms and carried away by melodies. But then there’s also music whose main strength is to remain small, and not to overwhelm the listener. There is nothing remarkable about this type of music, apart from its intimacy and sincerity. The Kenyan singer Ayub Ogada’s album Kodhi clearly falls into the latter category. It is a beautiful and sober record full of simple but profound songs. There are no frills, apart from a minimal adornment added by Trevor Warren’s Spanish guitar. No more is needed. The repetitive patterns in the rhythm and melody create an invocatory effect, a friendly rhythm wave which is lulling rather than goading. Such thriftiness and simplicity are allowable because of Ogada’s incredible voice. At times he’s hardly singing as it’s more like talking, but every single word is pregnant with meaning. Every line is impressive, although Ogada doesn’t seem to need to impress. Quiet and grandiose.
Trevor Warren and Ayub Ogada
Looking back, those two weeks in Kenya having all those adventures with Ayub Ogada just flew by, yet I felt I lived a whole lot more while I was there in 2012. Back in the UK that summer, the overdubbing/post production process began. Although we had the basic tracks – Ayub’s voice, my guitar, Isaac’s voice and guitar and the sounds of Kenyan wildlife – I knew I had a lot of work to do to make a coherent album. I spent a day or two in Sussex putting down some more guitar and vocals. Then a visit to Rob Bozas in Bath to play the album to him. He agreed to fund some more musos to add some rhythm section.
Isaac Gem and Ayub Ogada – last days of recording Kodhi
Sean tells us there is a bar up the road where we could do an impromptu gig if we fancy it so we set off in another taxi. The bar is small and fairly full. A recent power cut has stopped everyone watching the football so it seems a good moment to play.
Ayub is great and we play for quite a while, much to the surprise and enjoyment of the locals. I am bushed however and order a drive home around 11pm. The others stay longer and Ayub and Sean make it to bed about 5am.
Hugo Ross, Trevor Warren, Isaac Gem, Ayub Ogada, Sean Ross and Kiraka
My idea of Fisherman’s Camp as a quiet sanctuary soon evaporates. Monkeys scrabble about on the roof of our hut and workmen seem intent on felling as many trees as possible next door.
Luckily, the Ross family come to our rescue and offer us the den that is attached to the side of their nearby house.
After a bit of debate, we check in at Fishermans, a camp site next to Lake Naivasha run by an Englishman, one Sean Ross and family. We have a sleepy-eyed breakfast in the cafe there and I’m finally warming up, only to then get bitten by mosquitoes the size of bats! Still, the wooden chalet we have rented seems nice and the place appears quiet enough to record.
Ayub’s interview with a local journalist
Ayub and our host Alan Donovan
Two more days recording Kodhi and we are making progress. We wind up our stay with a delicious farewell lunch with our generous host, Alan Donovan.
A local journalist joins us and interviews Ayub who answers her questions thoughtfully with a relaxed demeanour.
Back at his place, Ayub and I stay up late into the night talking. It even rains a bit as Ayub tries to get me to play guitar all night for him.
1am – I fall into bed, only to be awakened at 6am with diarrhoea. My first and only of the trip thankfully – probably attributable to the buttermilk I had drunk before bed. Luckily that day was our first day off so Ayub and I just chilled and wandered around Mlolongo, his neighbourhood, playing pool (2-1 England!).
Thursday, and the strain is beginning to show a bit. This is the end of the first week and the pressure is building. Although we have some music down, we need more, and we definitely need some vocals added to make this trip worthwhile.
We are visited by a BBC producer, Kevin, who comes to check us out before his planned filming of us on the following Tuesday. It seems that Gary Barlow wants to record Ayub for the song he’s writing for the British Queen’s 60th Jubilee. Mr Barlow is going around the Commonwealth recording artists to add to the music he’s already created. The BBC are filming the whole expedition.
We finally get to our destination and set up the gear. There are several cars in the car park with diplomatic plates on them. Alan is hosting a lunch for some of his friends, some of the most politically powerful in the country it seems, UN ambassadors and all. I feel again I am in a slightly surreal world.
Alan Donovan’s African Heritage House is where we start recording. It is a kind of living museum created over some 40 years, full of precious artifacts from all over the continent. Modern and ancient pieces of art and craft are everywhere and the actual house is of an amazing design. We record outside – it’s technically in the pool house, but it’s basically a fairly large wooden structure open to the elements on three sides, with an elaborately designed swimming pool.
So it seems that quite suddenly I find myself standing in Jomo Kenyatta International airport, sleep deprived and blinking in the early morning sunshine. I locate Ayub and soon I’m in the first of my Nairobi traffic jams – just getting out of the airport car park takes abut 20 minutes. Our driver is Dan. He will accompany us through a lot of our trip.
Dan – our trusty driver – keep your eyes on the road!