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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Extra Golden
Hera Ma Nono
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 6.5/10 ?


October 9, 2007
This time last year I was drooling over the half-Kenyan, half-American benga/indie collective called Extra Golden. First, I read about the band - how Golden member Ian Eagleson traveled to Africa, started studying the culture and especially the music, began recording musicians, and eventually met Kenyan benga vocalist/songwriter Otieno Jagwasi and drummer Onyango Yuod Omari. Along with the two African musicians and another member, guitarist Alex Minoff, Eagleson formed Extra Golden and the quartet quickly recorded Ok-Oyot System in a Kenyan nightclub. You can read more about the band's interesting history at the Thrill Jockey website.

Ok-Oyot System is an album of African benga music touched off by a bit of American indie rock. To elaborate, benga is a form of Kenyan popular music that is best described as indigenous guitar-led dance music. When listening to Extra Golden certain sounds stick out - trickling, clean, interweaving, repetitive guitar lines; danceable drum set patterns; African-dialect vocal harmonies. In essence, the band's blend of benga and American indie music on Ok-Oyot System isn't such a heavy push or pull in either direction, but more of a delicate balance.

The band's second album, though, is not such a pure mix of the two genres. In some cases, outside musical elements poke their noses in Hera Ma Nonos business a little too much. During the track "Street Parade" the band uses bold and jazzy New Orleans-styled piano parts (the song is an homage to the people of the Louisianan city) and densely stacked vocal harmonies that sound cheesy in a 'bad barbershop quartet' type of way. Some English vocal parts (such as those found in "Night Runners") and guitar riffs (in "Brothers Gone Away") just aren't as catchy as they were on Ok-Oyot System. Part of this is undoubtedly due to Jagwasi's death and subsequent replacement in the band by new lead man Opiyo Bilongo, but some of the catchy, danceable, and exotic appeal has also been lost somewhere in the shuffle.

All negatives aside, there are some really good, topical songs covered on Hera Ma Nono. "Obama" is all about presidential hopeful Barrack, who aided the band in their quest to tour in the United States, and "Jakolando" and "Brothers Gone Away" are both about the pain of losing friends and family members in a land of shortened life expectancy. "Obama" is also probably the album's most catchy tune, a hi-hat skipping, dancey limbo-line mover. In songs "Hera Ma Nono" (in the Luo language, it means "love in vain") and "Jakolando," the vocal melodies of Bilongo and Omari - along with the latter's superb drumming skils - carry the entirety of the songs. Overall, Hera Ma Nono left a good impression with several notable points, however, there will be no drooling this time around.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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