Kenge Kenge

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 Achieng, and focused more closely on the benga rhythm that's synonymous with Kenya. The only remaining original member by this time was Nyariwo. While a backing band they'd only used the traditional one-string fiddle called an orutu and the nyangile gong. However, once they began going it alone, they brought in other instruments like percussion, drums, horns and flute to fill out the sound: notably, they still don't use guitar. The band almost received a Kenyan Traditional Music award in 2004; they performed at the ceremony, but no one informed them they'd been nominated or that they'd won! In the West, their first appearance was on Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya, and in 2007 their debut, Introducing Kenge Kenge appeared. ~ Chris Nickson

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