Kenge Kenge
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Kenge Kenge

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The best kept secret in music


Folk Roots, Aug/Sep 2007
“If you liked Congotronics, don’t miss this joyful noise from Kenya’s band formerly known as Kenge Kenge Orutu System – roots music from the tradition of the Luo people, a wild and spacy blast that prefigures benga, a dense texture of rhythm and chant with the unusual deployment of horn, one-string fiddle (or utu), gong and fife-like flute over the top. This is pretty deep stuff, full of undergrowth and undertow, but the melody instruments up front make it seem jaunty and approachable… As for the voices, which are in fact the central event, the quality on display here is quite exceptional. This is singing of a very moving variety. It is strong and generous, full of character and contrast. The total upward effect is irresistable and oddly gingered by what seems to be an intentionally out-of-focus tinge to the recording…

- Folk Roots

Folk Roots, July 2007 - Playlist – 10 best new albums
Giant Step, June 2007
“Sometimes there is music that is so welcoming that it instantly puts a smile on your face. This is what happened when I heard Introducing Kenge Kenge, an album full of traditional African music by the group, Kenge Kenge. Communicating sounds through percussion, horns, and flutes, their name means 'fusion of small, exhilarating instruments.' So, I expected amazing instrumentation throughout. Done. One of the soul satisfying tracks on the album is "Obare Yinda," which is uplifting and injects a vibe of dance and celebration. The karma-laced song "Piny Agonda" continues that theme. The marriage of the background drums with the call/response vocals reveals the peaceful spirit of the Luo musical heritage. "Amilly" is another song worth mentioning. The beginning string solo was an unexpected surprise. Although I don't speak the language, it was easy to hear that the lyrics switched to a troubling tone. After reading the booklet, the story of this song is a young musician who is crying out about the disappearance of a girl he loves. The vocals are transformed in more of storytelling style, than just lyrics. The last track to briefly highlight is "Otenga," which is a famous Luo dance style. This is their ode to the flexible and fast movement that connects communities in East and Central Africa. Introducing Kenge Kenge is an album full of continuous rhythms. With African music being rehashed all over the world, it feels damn good to hear the traditional sounds come from traditional and native musicians.”

- Folk Roots

Kenge Kenge in Exclaim! (August) Canada
“Stop the virtual presses! Kenge Kenge is your summertime groove.”
- Exclaim!

Kenge Kenge in Snap (August)
“Although they explore the acoustic roots of benga, there’s nothing laid back about them – this is as energetic and vibrant as any music currently coming out of Africa.”
- Snap

“Kenge Kenge (their name means something like "fusion of small, exhilarating instruments," which has got to be one of the coolest translations ever) explore the origins of benga, a style popular in Kenya the way rumba is in Congo or highlife is in Nigeria. The overall effect (despite obvious modern production) is not unlike some mid-20th century field recording that Alan Lomax might have done for Smithsonian Folkways, and therein lies its appeal. It's raw, soaring, delightfully infectious and, yes, exhilarating. There are no discernible commercial pretensions here, obvious from the largely unpolished nature of the music itself and the fact that the shortest track runs over seven minutes. Lovers of traditional African sounds, take note. This one's for you. I considered it a keeper after the first song.”
- World Music Central

Kenge Kenge's sound is compulsively danceable -- hypnotic, earthy, and exhilarating -- and despite its surface simplicity, highly sophisticated. At times, the music recalls the trance-laden buzz of Congotronics (especially the first album), the ardent experimentation of American composer/inventor Harry Partch, the ecstatic incantations of Colombia’s Totó La Momposina, and the hip-switching, rumble-gutted punch of Brazil's Grupo Uakti. Initially led by Amdo Jawaya and Samuel Nyariwo, the ensemble began by playing back-up for the Catering Levy Trust Choir. But some time after present leader George Achieng signed on, it took on additional members, became more self-sufficient and gradually began incorporating selected contemporary grooves. This is not to say that the group has trespassed beyond its original folkloric frame of reference. It has merely moved a bit closer to what generations yet unborn will proudly claim as their cultural heritage.”

- Amazon Music


Kenge Kenge, Introducing - African Living Traditions - Acoustic Roots of Kenyan Benga



Kenge Kenge (their name means "fusion of small, exhilarating instruments,") explore the origins of benga, a style popular in Kenya the way rumba is in Congo or highlife is in Nigeria.

This is roots music from the JoLuo community of Western Kenya, with lyrical arrangements that reflect influences from the popular Benga pop-music style. Dense textures of rhythm and chant are overlaid with an unusual assortment of self-made traditional instruments: Nyatiti lyre, Bul drums, the Nyangile sound box, Ongeng’o metal rings, Asili flute, and the Oporo horn. But the singing is in fact the central event, and it is strong and generous, full of character and contrast.

In addition to tremendous popularity in their home region, Kenge Kenge have toured to Norway, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and will continue bringing their irresistible dance music and celebration to the world.