- “Omera” is the title of the session album that singer and musician Ayub Ogada recorded for his latest album in collaboration with his longtime producer, British guitarist Trevor Warren.
- In 2012, Ayub invited Warren to Kenya to record songs for the “Kodhi” album in makeshift studios set up at the African Heritage House.
- Ayub died in January 2019 at the age of 63, but his legacy is such that his songs, particularly the haunting folk song “Kothbiro,” still stir powerful emotions every time they are played.
The remains of the last recording sessions by one of Kenya’s most influential musicians have been reworked and released as a new posthumous double album.
“Omera” is the title of the session album that singer and musician Ayub Ogada recorded for his latest album in collaboration with his longtime producer, British guitarist Trevor Warren.
In 2012, Ayub invited Warren to Kenya to record songs for the “Kodhi” album in makeshift studios set up in the African Heritage House, overlooking Nairobi National Park and at a campsite by Lake Naivasha.
In his later years, Ayub, whose main instrument was the nyatiti, the traditional 8-string lyre, had committed to recording only in open-air spaces, far from the confines of a conventional studio. “Kodhi”, released in 2015, was the last album he made in life.
Ayub died in January 2019 at the age of 63, but his legacy is such that his songs, particularly the haunting folk song “Kothbiro,” still stir powerful emotions every time they are played.
The song has been widely used in soundtracks for TV shows and movies such as 2006’s “Constant Gardener” and events such as the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Ayub and his former Black Savage bandmate Mbarak Achieng’ received songwriting credits when American rapper Kanye West sampled “Kothbiro” on the song “Yikes” from the 2018 album “Ye.”
Shortly after Ayub’s death, his close collaborator, singer, guitarist, songwriter, Isaac Gem, who had been the engineer during the recording of “Kodhi”, proposed the idea of a tribute album, using some of the recording sessions. of “Kodhi”. ”.
The musicians spent two weeks in Nairobi and Naivasha recording nearly 60 different musical ideas for the album, some of which did not make the final cut. When Warren listened to these recordings again, he discovered many tracks worth reworking.
These include a live version of Ayub’s best-known hit, “Kothbiro,” recorded during, as Warren recalls, a random performance for some dignitaries having lunch at the late Alan Donovan’s African Heritage House.
Donovan, whose association with Ayub began in the late 1970s when together they formed the African Heritage Band, had allowed the musicians to record all the instrumental tracks in his outdoor swimming pool.
Unbeknownst to them, Isaac had pressed the record button while this little performance was going on. It’s impressive to hear Ayub’s baritone on this version of his title track as the nyatiti fits in perfect harmony with Warren’s Spanish guitar.
“Mbira” was one of the first recordings during the “Kodhi” sessions with Ayub playing solo, but it was not released on the album. Warren added various percussion such as maracas, bells and shekere with additional vocals from Gem to complete the piece for this project.
“We Are Just Waiting” is a reworking of the original song ‘Waritarita’ about a long-awaited homecoming, with different vocal takes and percussion from Ayub and guest vocals from Sean Ross, the Executive Director of the Rift Valley Festival who had organized the musicians during the recording of “Kodhi” at the Fisherman’s Camp in Naivasha.
Ayub sings about the “womb that burned down our barns” in an alternate version of “Dero” called “Granary”, while ‘Seed is an instrumental version of the song “Kodhi”, which was originally recorded against the backdrop of the cutting down trees as a warning against the destruction of the environment.
The track ’45” was taken from the original sessions and completed for the album with an overdub, featuring guest appearances by Scottish trumpeter Toby Shippey of the multinational band Salsa Celtica.
Other songs are what Warren calls ‘lovely little discoveries’ from the “Kodhi” sessions like the instrumentals “Tamuru”, “It’s Raining” and “Mountains of the Moon” that had been shelved until the making of this collection.
Warren also used some of the earlier recordings, such as on the title track “Omera” and the infectious ‘Ali Farka Toure’ using material Ayub had recorded with acclaimed UK jazz bassist Dill Katz in London in 2006.
The second disc contains reimaginings of some of Ayub’s songs created by Warren and some of the musicians who knew and admired him, such as composer and pianist Bernard O’Neill, producer and guitarist for the late Count Dubulah with a club remix of ‘Kodhi ‘ and Oren Kaplan, who melds Ayub’s traditional style with a funky electronic groove.
The album is also a tribute to renowned Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy, who played on the “Kodhi” album and passed away in September 2019. “Omera” is a powerful reminder of Ayub Ogada’s exceptional talent and charisma, and why his legacy is He is among the best musicians in Africa.