Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Omar Sosa: An East African Journey


Omar Sosa: An East African Journey


Sign in to view read count
Omar Sosa: An East African Journey
Back in 2009, Omar Sosa took part in an eight-stop trio tour of East Africa. Serving multiple purposes, it gave the pianist a chance to work with Senegalese singer Mola Sylla and Mozambican bassist Childo Tomas while connecting with the people, operated as the subject for a French-funded documentary and provided an opportunity for cross-cultural collaborations to blossom in the field. Every time Sosa touched down in a new spot his hosts with Alliance Française helped him connect with local artists. And his sound engineer, Patrick Destandeau, was right there with him, ready to capture the results with his mobile recording rig.

When all was said and done with the tour, and the pianist returned to Barcelona, he passed the recordings off to his co-producer, Steve Argüelles. Then the waiting game began. First there was other work to tend to. But then there was the matter of presentation to consider. The pair wrestled for quite a while with the best way to (ad)dress the music, eventually settling on the idea of subtle enhancements. In pulling together two sessions in 2018—the first for Argüelles to add drums and percussion, and Christophe Minck to contribute with electronics and keyboard-bass; the second for Sosa to overdub acoustic piano—the production was finally completed. It was both an end to the work and the beginning for An East African Journey's arrival.

Mirroring the tour's launch, the album starts in Madagascar with "Tsiaro Tsiaro." Sosa's reflective piano sets that stage, but Rajery's valiha (an 18-string tube zither) steals the show with its beautifully brittle flow. The pianist threads other recordings from the Red Island throughout, using that location as a geographic home base of sorts for this project, . Rajery reappears on "Veloma E," a vocal-enhanced episode in folk purity, and "Dadilahy," a dancing delight placed in the penultimate slot. And Monja Mahafay, a musician living in the bush, some 625 miles south of there, makes his mark(s) with scampering sensibilities on the marovany (24-string box zither) during "Eretseretse." Later, he gives off loose and stirring suggestions with the lokanga (a three-string violin) on "Sabo."

As Sosa bounces from place to place, the joys inherent in human connection shine brightly in musical discovery. "Thuon Mok Loga," a gospel work featuring Olith Ratego's nyatiti (lyre) and vocals, was captured in Kenya; the straight-time groove of "Shibinda," showcasing Abel Ntalasha's kalumbu (a string-and-gourd precursor of the better-known Brazilian berimbau), was made in Zambia; and two performances with krar (5-string, bowl-shaped lyre) master Seleshe Damessae—the swinging "Che Che" and capacious and slow-grooving "Tizeta"—recall Sosa's time in Ethiopia. Additional collaborative works from stops in Sudan, Burundi and Mauritius find their way into the mix and broaden the landscape, offering even greater variety. Ever the restless explorer, Omar Sosa continues to thrill and surprise with his curiosity and connective capabilities. This was and is his journey, but he's more than happy to take us with him.

Track Listing

Tsiaro Tsara; Thuon Mok Loga; Elrababa; Eretseretse; Che Che; Veloma E; Kwa Nyogokuru Revisted; Tizeta; Sabo; Meinfajria; Shibinda; Dadilahy; Ravann Dan Jazz.


Omar Sosa
Additional Instrumentation

Omar Sosa: percussion, vocals, kalimba; Rajery: valiha (1, 6, 12), vocals (6); Olith Ratego: nyatiti, vocals (2); Dafaala Elhag Ali: tambur (3, 10); Monja Mahafay: marovany (4), lokanga, vocals (9); Seleshe Damessae: krar, vocals (5, 8); Steven Sogo: umuduri, vocals (7); Abel Ntalasha: kalumbu, vocals (11); Menwar: ravanne (13); Steve Argüelles: drums, percussion, Simmons drums; Christophe 'Disco' Minck: double bass, Moog Voyager, synthesizers, modular effects; Mola Sylla: vocals (5); Childo Tomas: vocals (5); Patrick Destandeau: vocals (5)

Album information

Title: An East African Journey | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Ota Records




For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Elegy for Thelonious
Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble
Mendoza - Hoff - Revels
Marco Baldini
Hackney Diamonds (2CD)
Rolling Stones


Jazz Hands
Bob James
London Afrobeat Collective
Light Streams
John Donegan - The Irish Sextet

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.