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Backstage On The Macklemore Heist Tour With Owuor Arunga

Armed with a GoPro, the Sultan of Swag, Owuor Arunga, took Okayafrica TV backstage on The Heist tour with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.


The official trumpeter for The Heist album and tour and an esteemed member of Seattle's hip-hop community in his own right, Owuor Arunga has played just about every note along the way of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' historic rise. And it was just about a year ago that Okayafrica first found out the "Sultan of Swag" hails from Kisumu, Kenya. Since that fateful day, Macklemore and co. have continued their meteoric takeover with a show-stopping performance at the VMA's and a massive tour of Europe under their belt.

Luckily, Okayafrica TV had behind-the-scenes access to these moments and more along the Heist tour. Armed with a GoPro, "Hip-Hop's Dizzy Gillespie" took us backstage for an exclusive look at life on the road with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Somehow in between trotting the globe Owuor even found time to visit his pops in Cairo. When all was said and done, the Heist's orchestral renaissance man turned out to be quite the candid filmmaker (his sneak peak of Chance The Rapper tap dancing backstage in Paris is pretty convincing proof, right?). After three months of traveling with the GoPro in tow, Owuor caught up with us to assess the footage and answer some questions we'd been dying to know. When did he and Macklemore meet? Who was the troublemaker and who was the "square bear" of Seattle's legendary Garfield High? How did he end up jamming with kids in Cairo? And of course, how stoked is he to bring the Macklemore tour to Kenya? (The answer to that last one is a resounding YES) And so without further adieu, get to know the Heist's Owuor Arunga as he takes us backstage in the latest episode of Okayafrica TV.

Videographers:

Allison Swank

Imani Lindsey

Jason Koenig

Editor:

Lance Steagall

Music by:

Owuor & Friends

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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