Audio

Kenya Special: 1970s/80s Kenyan Benga & Afro-Cuban Rumba [LP]

Soundway Records presents 'Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s and '80s', a compilation of afrobeat, soul, and rock music.


Soundway Records continues their African music 'Special' series with a new release, Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s and 80s. Previous installments of the series have focused on the highlife and afrobeat genres out of Nigeria and Ghana, but this set finds the Soundway team revealing the lesser-approached musical contributions coming from Kenya during that time period. The musical landscape of 1970s Kenya was dominated by two seemingly unrelated styles - Kenyan benga and Afro-cuban rumba, which came to be interpreted by Congolese artists through visiting bands, many of whom eventually settled in the area. In addition to these genre-bending styles, Kenya Special also explores Kikuyu language 'liquid soul,' Swahili afrobeat, and the small experimental ensembles emanating from the hotel-sponsored scene. If it seems to be a tall order to accomplish in a 2xCP / 3xLP set, but we're confident the knowledgeable sonic researchers at Soundway Records delivered. Check out a preview below, and be sure to cop Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s and '80s on April 28th (or May 20th, for you vinyl heads).

Interview

Interview: The Awakening of Bas

We talk to Bas about The Messenger, Bobi Wine, Sudan, and the globalized body of Black pain.

The first thing you notice when you begin to listen to The Messenger—the new investigative documentary podcast following the rise of Ugandan singer, businessman and revolutionary political figure Bobi Wine—is Bas' rich, paced, and deeply-affecting storytelling voice.

Whether he is talking about Uganda's political landscape, painting a picture of Bobi Wine's childhood, or drawing parallels between the violence Black bodies face in America and the structural oppression Africans on the continent continue to endure at the hands of corrupt government administrations, there is no doubt that Bas (real name Abbas Hamad) has an intimate understanding of what he's talking about.

We speak via Zoom, myself in Lagos, and him in his home studio in Los Angeles where he spends most of his time writing as he cools off from recording the last episode of The Messenger. It's evident that the subject matter means a great deal to the 33-year-old Sudanese-American rapper, both as a Black man living in America and one with an African heritage he continues to maintain deep ties with. The conversation around Black bodies enduring various levels of violence is too urgent and present to ignore and this is why The Messenger is a timely and necessary cultural work.

Below, we talk with Bas aboutThe Messenger podcast, Black activism, growing up with parents who helped shape his political consciousness and the globalized body of Black pain.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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