For the past week or so the media have been talking about Barack Obama’s new momentum in the polls, but unsurprisingly none of the pundits have commented on the appearance of two new pro-Obama songs by African musicians, both from or once based in Kenya, his father’s homeland.
While in town a couple of weeks ago for World Music Festival Chicago the great African singer and bandleader Samba Mapangala (a native of the Congo who achieved his greatest fame after relocating to Kenya) went into Delmark’s house studio, Riverside, to cut “Obama Ubari Kiwe (Obama Be Blessed),” a song he also performed during at least one of his festival sets. In the studio he was joined by members of his own group, Virunga, as well as guitarist Nathaniel Braddock and saxophonist Greg Ward of Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band International. The tune is a lovely, lilting slice of benga, with luminescent guitar lines snaking around the infectious but easygoing groove. There are some introductory English-language rhymes from Fanaka Ngede, a Kenyan rapper based in Minneapolis, but for most of the song Mapangala’s effortlessly fluid cry takes center stage; in part, his Swahili lyrics say, “Obama, leadership is a gift from God, and you have it / Please help to bring peace, change, and hope to all Americans, and all the world / We love you!” You can hear the song at Mapangala’s MySpace page.
The other song, called “Obama for Change,” is by the Kenyan group Kenge Kenge, who play a sort of raw, pre-electric strain of benga. I wrote about them here last summer. Their song, which is available on emusic.com, opens with a bit of English: “American people, citizens of the world! Here are sounds and memories from Africa, drumming support for Barack Obama!” It’s hardly news that support for Obama outside the U.S. is overwhelming, nowhere more than in Africa, and musicians from Africa should be especially fond of Obama–his office’s assistance in cutting through immigration red tape has allowed both Extra Golden (who subsequently recorded their own praise song, “Obama”) and Seun Kuti to tour in the U.S. in the past couple of years.
UPDATE: Here’s the video for “Obama for Change:”
No Age, Nouns (Sub Pop)
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
Bill Stewart, Incandescence (Pirouet)
Graham Lambkin, Salmon Run (Kye)
Joe Henderson, Inner Urge (Blue Note)