Singer, songwriter and guitarist Nina Ogot is launching her new album, “Dala”, with two concerts in Nairobi over the next fortnight.
The album whose title is the Dholuo word for home is the culmination of a journey that started during a trip to Germany in December 2018.
Nina had been invited to perform at an event called Jambo Day in the city of Cologne as an Ambassador for Treasures of Kenya Trust, an organisation based in Nairobi that promotes cultural and other attractions in Kenya.
A 15-piece band comprising a full horn section, a rhythm section, keyboards and back up vocalists was put together for the event.
“The chemistry was so great during our rehearsals and performances that after the show we decided to record an album,” says Nina.
This was a fulfilment of one of her desires as a musician because she always wanted to perform with a big band and had previously tried out various smaller acoustic formations.
“So we put the music together I returned to Germany in April this year for the recording and eight months later we have an album of ten songs.”
“The album is inspired by pan African rhythms from Joseph Ngala’s Bango and Flea Kuti’s Afrobeat to Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa and rumba of Joseph Kabasele,” says Nina.
All instruments were played live during the recording of the music and so the sound on the album is authentic where the listener can identify the different instruments.
“These are musicians who had never played African music before but they nailed the rhythms to a tee,” says Nina.
According to her, this experience has reinforced the beauty of playing live music, a style that has largely been abandoned in favour of synthesised sounds.
On the title track, Nina’s smooth vocals singing forlornly about going back home after travelling the world, to the accompaniment of guitars and soft saxophone and trumpet sounds.
“The title of the album is deliberate because in essence we are bringing back home the value of playing live music,” says Nina.
“Rafiki” is influenced by the rhythms of Western Kenya starting with percussions and building up to an irresistible groove.
“Silly Bird” is a lively arrangement that Nina describes as ‘revolutionary’.
“This song was inspired by those who always describe my music as ‘niche’ and so I am just expressing myself in the best way I know,” says Nina.
The lyrics say that, thanks to music and other forms of art, the artist is one of the most influential voices even in a politically inclined society such as the one we live in.
“Mama” is a song that Nina co-wrote with renowned singer and saxophonist Juma Tutu 10 years ago to coincide with International Women’s Day but was never released. She started performing it two years ago and it is one of the songs that has made it into the new album. Tutu who fronts the Swahili Jazz Band will join Nina for a live performance of the song during the album launch.
This is the third album by the Nina who combines a soulful contemporary singing style with traditional influences and sings in English, French and Dholuo. The singer who began playing guitar as a student at Loreto Convent School Msongari has worked as teacher of French, an Arts correspondent for Radio France International and a TV presenter. Her first album was “Ni Nairobi” released in 2009 followed by remixes of her two singles “Wololo” and “Aheri’ two years later.
Her second album “Yote Yote” in 2017 is a collaboration album with her husband, the contemporary benga musician Winyo.
Her music has won two African Video Music Awards and a Kalasha Award in 2011 for best Original Score for the film “Issa”.
Nina has performed at various international events including the Bayimba Festival in Kampala, Uganda, Moshito Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa and Afro-Asian Festival in Kerala, India.
She was among artists from around the world awarded a fellowship for the One Beat musical and cultural exchange program organised by the US State Department in 2012.
Nina will be performing with the visiting 15-piece band from Germany at the Alliance Francaise on September 6 and on the 12th September during the Thursday Night Live series at J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen in Westlands.
“This is a very exciting show because you will experience the full range of musical instruments on stage in a style that you rarely hear at concerts today,” says Nina.