Friday, October 8, 2010

CD Review: Kenya's Suzanna Owiyo

Suzanna Owiyo
My Roots

Kenya's Suzanna Owiyo is a percussionist, guitarist, singer, and most importantly, a nyatiti player. A nyatiti is an eight-stringed, plucked lyre from Kenya. The nyatiti was a mainstay in the Benga music movement in Kenya beginning in the 1960's. It is related to the krar, which is a five-stringed, plucked lyre from Ethiopia. My Roots' opening track showcases the nyatiti's mesmerizing sound similar to a combination of an electrified harp with the buzzing sounds of the mbira. Her Luo and English lyrics tackle alcoholism, violence, abandonment, and faith. Her voice is as strong as Angelique Kidjo (Benin) and as sensitive as Rokia Traore (Senegal). Drawing upon comparisons throughout Africa, My Roots is more than a contemporary Afro-pop album with a crystal clear sound; it is a groundbreaking release that features an instrument never-before-played by women. A few guest musicians appear, such as Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi, Ogoya Nengo, and Makadem. Fans of East African popular music will find My Roots a very satisfying experience. ~ Matthew Forss

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