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Musical Duo from Nairobi

Sunday, January 15, 3:00 pm
$12 adv, $15 door

Kamatana is a musical duo from Nairobi dedicated to promoting the music of the obokano to a new audience. The group is made up of two musicians from the Gusii tribe, Dominic Ogari and Samwel Osieko. The name of their group, Kamatana, means togetherness.

In this spirit they sing folk songs not only in their native Gusii language, but also songs from other tribes in Kenya such as the Luhya and Luo in the west and the Kiswahili speaking peoples of the coast. They also compose new songs in a traditional style. Their music is a unique sonic experience unlike any other.


Dominic Nyauma Ogari was born in 1974 into the Gusii tribe in the Nyamira district of Nyanza Province, located in western Kenya. After primary school he began playing the obokano as well as the local drums and shakers. He joined the cultural center, Bomas of Kenya in 1994 as a music instructor and performed with them in Cairo, Egypt and in Kampala, Uganda. In 1999 he joined the faculty of Kenyatta University to teach instruments including the obokano, ngutha, kayamba, as well as dances of various communities. During his time with Kenyatta University he performed in Istanbul, Turkey; Dodoma, Tanzania; and in Helsinki, Finland where he collaborated with the Helsinki Polytechnic Band and the University of Uuru band. Today he is a part of Kamatana as well as the fusion group Kachumbari Seven based in Nairobi, Kenya where he currently lives.

Samwel Ogari Osieko was born into the Gusii tribe in 1975 in the Kisii district of Nyanza Province, Kenya. He has played several different instruments including the kigamba, ngutha, and obokano since primary school. He joined the Kenyan cultural center Bomas of Kenya in 1998 then went on to become a music instructor and composer for Mombasa Polytechnic in 2003. Since 2009 he has lead the Kamatana group as chairman. He has performed with Bomas of Kenya in Victoria, Seychelles and Zanzibar, Tanzania. In 2005 he performed in Tokyo, Japan.

Kenya is a country that brings to mind vivid imagery of endless savanna, abundant wildlife, and classic safari culture. However, this East African country is home to exciting traditions that remain some of the best kept secrets in world music.

One such tradition is the music of the obokano, a large bass lyre played by the Gusii tribe of Western Kenya. This instrument has been dubbed “the double bass of East Africa.” It has eight strings which produce a deep buzzy sound reminiscent of a bass saxophone. When combined with vocals and percussion, it provides a strong rhythmic accompaniment.

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