By Catherine Kimotho
Published December 12, 2012
BLNRB: Welcome to the Madhouse, is a new album featuring 18 tracks and incorporating house music with African rhythms creating a fresh, new style. The album hosts a number of artists from Nairobi’s Ukoo Flani, Just a Band, Michel Ongaro, Mister Abbas and Nazizi to Berlin’s band Jahcoozi, and music producers Modeselektor and Gebruder Teichmann. The fusion of sounds, from the drum beats to the electronic sound that is currently making waves in the global music industry, is the prominent feature of this album. While each song is infused with the Nairobian sheng lyrics and the rhythm of the drums, the creative static beats of Berlin provide the tracks with a unique urban sound.
The recording features music from the next generation of African musicians. Zacharia Ochieng (Little King) and Robin Nyamwea (Robo) in their track, Take it Higher, produce an awe-inspiring gospel techno-hip hop track. The two children, both aged about 12 and members of a group called Gospel Warriors, were discovered at an open party held in Kibera by the BLNRB project, where the duo stunned the crowd and Berliners with their skills on the mic; they were requested to record with them on the BLNRB project the following day.
Msoto Millions, ‘a track by Ukoo Flani and Jahcoozi, is sung to the base beats of instrumental sounds with lyrics that depict the struggle of the ‘common person in the 21st Century’.
Madhouse may be an interesting track for those who love hip-hop but be warned this is not the usual regular beat bumping hip hop, but the tech beats that combine Nazizi Hirji’s reggae style, Mister Abbas’s hard rap and Sasha Perera’s German/English/sheng rap lyrics making it a head thumping track.
But this is not to say that all the songs in the album are fantastic, the track, Living Room, is wanting but ingenious in the manner through which the producer, Teichmann, incorporates unwanted dog barking sounds into the track.
Just a Band, Sasha Perera and Lisa Oduor Noah in the song, Room for Me, deviate slightly from the electro-beat sound found in most of the songs in the album but it does bring out the best of rock and house beat that Just a Band is famous for, thus balancing out the album. The track, Kumbuka, with its captivating bass line beat through which Michel Ongaro’s instrumental style drums into the heart and mind the message that actions will always have consequences, is a must listen to.
The transition from one track to the next is smooth, an indication that the arrangements of the tracks was taken into consideration. With the latest digital technology the album testifies that the gap between sound production and technology can be bridged therefore creating a global rather than local sound.
BLNRB is a project of Goethe-Institut in Nairobi in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt. It is curated and put together by Andi Techmann and Hannes Teichmann of Berlin and Goethe-Institut in Nairobi.