Boomkat Product Review:
15 shots of plugged-in dance energy from the north of Uganda - melodic vocals meet driving machine rhythms, traditional instruments and nagging synth leads, featuring Otim Alpha and a bigggggg recommendation if yr feeling Shangaan Electro, Soca, Singeli...
Nyege Nyege Tapes spotlight the charming, young style of Electro Acholi from the Luo of Northern Uganda with a compilation of zippy rhythms and ear-worm hooks by 15 artists including Otim Alpha, whose ‘Gulu City Anthems’ introduced the fast and melodic sound to the world at large
Electro Acholi is the plugged-in version of traditional Acholi courtship songs from the region around the cities of Gulu and Lira, in an area spanning north Uganda and southern Sudan. This compilation surveys the sound’s golden years circa 2003-2008, when a brutal civil war in north Uganda meant that traditional, larger wedding ensembles of up to 25 players were too costly, and younger producers with access to Fruity Loops and video editing facilities stepped in to fill a gap in the market. Using samples and synthesis, they created custom, sped-up versions of traditional songs and performed them at the ceremonies, leading the sound to spill out into local nightspots such as the Alobo Night Club and the Opit Travellers Inn.
Scaling from a balmy 106bpm in the likes of Brother Q & City Boy’s slinky bumper ‘Can Deg Ming,’ to pelting uptempo styles embellished with local instrumentation, such as Pro Lagwee’s ‘Rwot Moo’, and the quick, all-electronic backing to the call-and-response vocals of ‘Kolo (Dog Mix)’ by Opiyo Twongweno, the set affords a privileged insight to modern Acholi music usually omitted from the “world music” racks. Now for the first time, pioneers of the style such as Bosmic Otim and the breezy swang of ‘Bandera pa kaka’, Lakoc Jojo with the cracking stepper ‘Apiyo Nyara’, or the mellifluous Lady Grace Atim and her acidic banger ‘Adoko Gwok’ take their place alongside Otim Alpha to present the best of Electro Acholi to keen-eared dancers everywhere.
Effectively a continuation of NNT’s ongoing archaeology of the Luo people’s sonic culture, following the roots excavation of Langi Griot and thumb piano player, Ekuka, and the branches of Otim Alpha on his single string fiddle and drum machine, ‘Electro Acholi Kaboom’ is an unmissable, even rare, survey of a critical, metamorphic phase shift between ancient, analog worlds, and digitized modernism.