Extra Golden is an international collaboration between members of two bands: Otieno Jagwasi and Onyango Wuod Omari of the Nairobi, Kenya based benga band Orchestra Extra Solar Africa, and Ian Eagleson and Alex Minoff of the Washington D.C. based rock band Golden. The musicians met as a result of Ian’s doctoral research on Kenyan music.
The title of the record Ok-Oyot System, is derived from the Luo phrase “ok oyot,” which means “it’s not easy.” Singers in Luo benga bands often use this phrase as an exclamation in their performance, drawing attention to the idea that life can be painful. Life in Kenya for the most part is not easy, a sentiment that is expressed in many of the Luo lyrics that Otieno sang on this record, as well as in the English lyrics sung by Alex and Ian. Many difficult situations faced Extra Golden before, during, and after this recording was made: Otieno had sufferred from kidney and liver disease since 2000, which was further complicated by H.I.V. In the year following the session, his condition deteriorated, and he would later sucumb to liver failure, passing away in May of 2005. During the recording, Ian, Alex, Otieno, and another dude called “Fozzy” were involved in a costly run in with the Kenyan police, in which a few detectives from Kenya’s much feared Criminal Investigation Department swept in to Ian’s apartment and “found” some sticks of “bhangi,” the local kynd. To stay out of jail and finish the session the Extra Golden boys had to empty some bank accounts (their own).
Fortunately, these struggles did not stop these musicians from completing this record. The result is a unique sounding record that arose from the cooperation between musicians that come from different circumstances, but who, at the same time, have something in common: they play in electric guitar bands and perform in bars and nightclubs. They are also musicians who have worked hard to release their own music over the past 15 years, often to little recognition. Extra Golden is not a high-profile international collaboration of the sort that would be featured at Starbucks checkout counters. Rather, it is based on a deep connection between the musicians, and, as a result, has a very honest sound reflecting this experience.
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