Extra Golden Hera Ma Nono

Extra Golden Hera Ma Nono
The sophomore album from the Kenyan/American band once again finds them turning out a well-considered fusion of ideas from across two continents. Whereas the first disc was an uneven affair, Hera Ma Nono’s song selection is much more consistent. Furthering their southern-fried Benga sound, Extra Golden prove that a band composed of two guitars, bass and drums can speak a universal language. Recorded after several weeks of touring, the band are in top form, in contrast to the rushed, albeit magical, quality of their last disc. The extended song structures are much more realised and Onyango Wuod Omari’s drums are a greater presence — probably because he’s not playing a broken down kit as he had previously. Their tribute to Barack Obama’s help in securing U.S. visas for their Kenyan members is a highlight of the disc, with a deep bass line that echoes the best Philly disco. Further success is achieved with the addition of Louisianan songwriter David Egan playing piano on Katrina commentary "Street Parade”; his Crescent City-inspired roll meshes well with the Benga lope. This disc is a rollicking good time, one can only hope there will be a third or even better, a live album somewhere in the future.

Did you ever think the second record would happen, given the visa difficulties?
Guitarist/vocalist Alex Minoff: There was a long time when we weren’t even thinking about that. But as soon as we got the opportunity to play last year [at the Chicago World Music Festival], we thought, "Yeah, we can do that.” After that, it was a foregone conclusion that we would create new recordings.

Did the previous album make waves in Kenya?
It’s difficult to say. I know it received airplay on a station in Nairobi. The first song on that album, "Ilando Gima Onde,” was somewhat of a hit in its original version. We collaborated on making a new version that musically is completely different. Our version got some airplay because people knew the song already but musically, it’s very strange to them.

How were your shows together?
They were great! It was the first time we’d played shows together. For them, it was a totally new, sometimes bewildering, experience to play a typical rock show where they’d expect you to play for 45 minutes. You know, we could play three songs in 45 minutes. But there were shows that were new for us too. We would play shows that were focused on the Kenyan community in the U.S. (Thrill Jockey)