Extra Golden Ok-Oyot System

Ok-Oyot System is a collaboration between two DC-based musicians who play in a band called Golden, and two Kenyan musicians hailing from Orchestra Extra Solar Africa, which are a distant offshoot of one of the great Kenyan Benga bands of all time, Shirati Jazz. This is the kind of collaboration we’re going to see more of in the future: Ian Eagleson went to Kenya to do a doctoral thesis on Benga, his friend Alex Minoff eventually joined him and the recordings came together pretty spontaneously with singer and instrumentalist Otieno Jagwasi playing a catalytic role. The best tracks on this disc state the obvious for me, which is that there is common ground between guitar bands the world over. It’s an eternal mystery to me why soukous, benga, and the mbaquanga of the ’70s — which have as many as four guitars rockin’ full bore over a conventional bass and drums rhythm section — have not made more inroads into rock since the ’80s. The U.S. musicians totally understand the rhythmic drive of classic Benga, and interface seamlessly with the Kenyans. Tracks are long — stretching past ten minutes in many cases — but the song structures are constantly changing — definitely more rock oriented than Benga, but again, sympathetic all around. The Americans bring guitar tones which evoke the classic sounds of ’60s African guitars, but also distortion, phasing effects and minor keys that are unusual and wonderful in this context. Drummer Onyango Wuod Omari plays nothing but kick, snare and hi-hat, and swings super-hard — it’s impossible not to move to this. You’ll never hear a funky song about terrorism’s consequences than "Osama Rach.” (Thrill Jockey)