By Bethsheba Achitsa with Ogova Ondego
Published February 7, 2010
Though she had been singing for close to 14 years, it was not till the death of Angela Chibalonza Runiga, the then Kenya-based and highly popular Congolese singer in a car accident in late September 2007 that she started recording her music. Today, three years later, Geraldine Akinyi Oduor has two albums on both CD and DVD and her art is getting better. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA, with OGOVA ONDEGO, reviews the music.
Oduor may be a secondary school teacher of biology and chemistry. One of the things her non-Bantu language-speaking community may not be revered for is the fluency in the Kiswahili language. However Oduor is not deterred by this and composes and performs most of her sacred music in this eastern Africa lingua franca. The contemporary Christian worship songs, delivered in the afro-fusion style that employs reggae, benga, and the American Don Moen -styled praise & worship, are appealing to the ear.
Damu ya Yesu (The Blood of Jesus), produced in 2008, and Mungu wa Biblia (Biblical God), recorded in 2009, mainly praise God.
“The main aim of my music is to glorify God, exult the brethren and evangelise the lost,” Oduor says. “I confine myself to God’s word because it’s undisputed. Issues will come and go but the word of God remains.”
Most of Geraldine Oduor’s songs on both albums are sung in Kiswahili except for one or two which she delivers in either English or her vernacular, Dholuo.
The nine-track Mungu wa Biblia opens with a thanksgiving song to God and by the third song, Yesu Kedo, which is performed in Dholuo, the album becomes livelier not only to watch but for one to sing and dance along to.
Oduor says of Yesu Kedo: “It’s a song of encouragement and victory. I am reminding people that as the battle belongs to the Lord, victory is assured. I will then praise Him from the depth of my heart in my daily life. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:57 that it is God who gives us the victory though Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Mungu wa Biblia concludes with Tumsifu (Let’s worship Him), a reggae-styled performance in which she urges every living thing to praise God for the many wonderful things he has done. The creativity Oduor displays in composing the songs tells more about what she is capable of achieving if she keeps singing.
While Damu ya Yesu, her debut album, may not be as interesting as the second one, it nevertheless has rich songs worth listening to. This album opens with a spell-binding performance not just because of the message contained in it but also because of the well arranged vocal performance.
Apart from the high score performance that is given by the singer, there is one more reason why one would like to watch her perform. Her wide range of costumes displayed on the 2009 video not only makes her presentable but gives Kenyan women something to think about when it comes to dressing. The various filming locations; the beautiful water masses, wide open skies, expansive greens including tea plantations, rocky mountain ranges, gorges and valleys, plateaus, and wilting brown grasslands are an alluring contrast and blend well with the rich soulful vocals, especially on the rhythmical, reggae-styled Wewe Watosha track that should have been the title of the album. The performers radiate infectious joy and blissful devotion to their Creator to the throbbing music couched in rich standard Kiswahili poetry.
The God who Reigns, the closing song, suddenly puts the listener in a contemplative mood for worship; it is slow-paced, lush and appealing to the heart, soul and mind.
Nevertheless there are a few flaws worth noting. To be more appealing, Oduor needs to work on the choreography or dance arrangement as befits most African celebratory songs. Though the dance may not be a problem on audio CD, it is crucial on video and any one who disregards it does it at one’s own peril in today’s audiovisual media-obsessed world.
While the DVD and CD technology has proven to be a useful and cheaper way for musicians and filmmakers to distribute their works across the world, this same technology has also been a let-down. For someone beginning to enjoy the singer’s music, technology makes it impossible to listen to all of the nine songs contained on the artist’s 2008 album and as a result one gets to listen to the first four songs only. For instance, though some of Oduor’s audio CDs are colourfully packaged, they do not play. Oduor has however indicated that she is moving swiftly in correcting this problem that results from technological failure.
Despite the fact that her songs are evangelistic, i.e. mainly based on biblical teachings, Geraldine Oduor appears to be a versatile artist who, if she remains true to her work, Kenya will not just find in her a gospel artist but an entertainer as well. Granted, the music scene in Kenya witnesses a new entrant every other day; but with secular artists converting to gospel artists the longevity of these entrants and the future of the gospel genre in the country is always held in great doubt. This, however, may not be the case with Geraldine Oduor whose music and performance speak for her.