Extra Golden: Hera Ma Nono

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Extra Golden
Hera Ma Nono
Thrill Jockey

The FM-rock supergroup Foreigner chose its name to reflect the mixed nationality of its members, assorted Brits and Yanks. Wherever they were, they said, someone in the band was a foreigner. Presumably the anomie engendered by this situation lent emotional poignancy to tunes like "Long Long Way From Home," and, uh, "I Wanna Know What Love Is." Foreigner's experience demonstrates that back in the day, to form a global band, some of the musicians just had to move.

Enthusiasts of globalization, perhaps, can point to Kenyan-American collective Extra Golden as an example of a new, post-Foreigner model of bi-national music making: the band really lives on two continents, in two countries.

Globalization hasn't entirely solved all the problems that Foreigner faced. Crossing borders is still tough for plenty of folks. In order to record their second disc, Hera Ma Nono, in the United States, Extra Golden had to call upon presidential hopeful Barack Obama to accelerate the stalled process of issuing visas for guitarist Opiyo Bilongo and drummer Onyango Wuod Omari. Appropriately, Extra Golden dedicates an earnest song of gratitude here to the renowned Kenyan-American senator, with the good manners to throw in thanks to his wife and his mother as well. The fierce coda, meanwhile, to "Obama" might have the power to change voting behavior.

Those magnificent codas are a defining characteristic of Extra Golden's take on the mesmeric benga popular music of the Luo-speaking region of Kenya. The codas take up half the playing length of some tracks; they might be more rapid and intense than the main body of the song ("Obama," "Love Hijackers"), or slower and more pensive ("Jackolando"). They feature guitar polyphony of aching beauty, making sense of the quizzical metaphor Chuck Berry used to describe Johnny B. Goode, who "could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell". The codas and the swirling guitar are two of the elements carried over from the band's excellent début, Ok-oyot System (Thrill Jockey, 2006). The most important such element, of course, is the energetic miscegenation of Kenyan benga and American indie rock, a process of fusion that sounds even better on this record than the first (case in point: the back-and-forth between English and Luo vocals on "Love Hijackers").

Extra Golden had to surmount an even greater challenge than visas to make this record; one critical feature of their earlier album absent from Hera Ma Nono is the contribution of guitarist and singer Otieno Jagwasi, whose life was snuffed out at the young age of 34 after recording the first record. Extra Golden recruited guitarist Bilongo, whose sound—vocally and on guitar—is sunnier than his baleful predecessor's preoccupied tone (like, say, Peter Tosh or Eric Dolphy). Elsewhere, Jagwasi's brother Onyango sings a filial tribute ("Jakolando").

In spite of the long shadow cast by Otieno's death, Hera Ma Nono is paradoxically a joyful record, built on a sophisticated groove; and it is with joy that the listener succumbs to that groove.

Tracks: Jakolando; Obama; I Miss You; Night Runners; Street Parade; Brothers Gone Away; Love Hijackers; Hera Ma Nono.

Personnel: Alex Minoff: guitars, bass, vocals, percussion; Opiyo Bilongo: guitars, lead vocal; Ian Eagleson: bass, guitars, vocals, percussion; Onyango Wuod Omari: drums; Dennis Rathnaw: percussion; Onyango Jagwasi: lead vocal (1); David Egan: piano (1,5).


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko African Jazz Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko
by Chris May
Published: January 14, 2013
Read Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s Authenticite Movement Show Their Roots African Jazz Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s...
by Chris May
Published: February 3, 2012
Read Owiny Sigoma Band: Rising From The East African Jazz Owiny Sigoma Band: Rising From The East
by Chris May
Published: May 1, 2011
Read Compilations: Doing The Right Thing African Jazz Compilations: Doing The Right Thing
by Chris May
Published: December 5, 2010
Read The Majestic “Return” of King Sunny Ade & His African Beats African Jazz The Majestic “Return” of King Sunny Ade &...
by Chris May
Published: September 29, 2010
Read Senegal's Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou N'Dour and south London's Yaaba Funk African Jazz Senegal's Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou...
by Chris May
Published: June 1, 2010
Read "The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years" DVD/Film Reviews The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years
by Doug Collette
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "All About Jazz Website Tips: 2017" Website News All About Jazz Website Tips: 2017
by Michael Ricci
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center" Live Reviews Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center
by David Becker
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary" DVD/Film Reviews Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "SFJAZZ Collective: Remembering Miles" Interview SFJAZZ Collective: Remembering Miles
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: May 18, 2017
Read "Take Five with Vincent Eury" Take Five With... Take Five with Vincent Eury
by Vincent Eury
Published: June 24, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.