Thursday 15 August 2019

ODD OKODDO - Okitwoye

Typically, I refrain from extensively reposting a band’s self-commentary. It seems lazy. Plus, I want to re-interpret the music, to elucidate, to critically examine – for my own benefit if not for anyone else’s. I have to make an exception here, because ODD OKODDO explains their unique origin better than I possibly could:'

“ODD OKODDO is a Kenyan/German duo formed by Olith Ratego and Sven Kacirek. This vinyl single marks their first outing, announcing the album "Auma" which will be ripe and ready in autumn 2019. 

Olith Ratego performs his immaculate vocals in the musical style called "dodo", which originates from the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, high in pitch and soulfully expressive. He himself refers to his music as "dodo blues". As a skilled luthier, Olith Ratego designs and builds his string instruments himself, first of all the five-stringed Okodo which lends its name to the project. 

Sven Kacirek is a multi-instrumentalist commuting between Germany and Kenya for many years now. He plays the marimba, percussions and piano, next to producing this project. He has closely collaborated with various international musicians, among them Nils Frahm, Shabaka Hutchings, F.S. Blumm and Marc Ribot.”

I am struck by the ambitious and convincing marriage of Ratego and Kacirek’s musical traditions. Ratego’s emphatic vocals take center stage from the beginning; you get the impression that the vocals came first. The electronic landscape seems to have been written expressly for and built up around Ratego’s singing, rather than superimposed on top like some McMansion roof. This sensitivity speaks to Karicek’s experience producing for and collaborating with international artists coming out of a range of traditions.

You start the track in a slow-paced, more balladic section, and you end up in a much faster, clubbier place - you also switch time signatures, moving from 3 beats to 4. You find yourself dancing at some point, and you don't know when or how it happened. That this feels perfectly natural, that it is at no point jarring, is in itself a major accomplishment. Several elements guarantee continuity in the track, including the marimba texture which is just perfect and helps gulf the divide, and (of course) the vocal part, which speeds up but which (again) seems to be in charge, guiding and leading the movement without being subsumed by it.

It’s an exciting debut from the duo; they are doing something brand-new and it really, really works.                                                                                                   

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