Celebratory 160 BPM jams from East Africa.
When this style first emerged, the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, was still terrorising Northern Uganda (the LRA had been active in the region since the late '80s). One side effect of the conflict, however minor, was that traditional Larakaraka bands became too expensive for young couples to hire for their weddings. In their place, recording studios offered deals where they would not only produce a song on commission, but also come to the wedding, film the ceremony and perform the track. Once this music got into local nightclubs, electro acholi took on a life of its own—these days, Otim Alpha and Leo P'layeng can be found touring it across the world.
Electro acholi music is intensely celebratory. There's a strong call-and-response element that lends itself to the social settings for which it was designed, and this attitude is best characterized by "Awinyo Bila" by Jahria Okwera, the compilation's most cheerful track. Besides being bright and summery, the vocal has a storytelling quality, and the digital wind instrument is silly and carefree. Bucketloads of melody and percussion seamlessly weave in and out of these songs. They are also all insanely catchy—Lakoc Jojo's "Apiyo Nyara" has a rowdy singalong that stuck with me long after listening.
Aside from the synthesisers and digital drums that replace the traditional instruments of the region, there's one primary difference between electro acholi and the music it looks to replicate, and that's speed. Most tracks hit 160 BPM. But there are two notable exceptions, Brother Q & City Boy's "Can Deg Ming" and Bosmic Otim "Bandera Pa Kaka," which are 106 and 112 BPM respectively. "Can Deg Ming," in particular, is a highlight—though it's less raucous and demanding than the other tracks, it's still centred on the joy of social occasions.
It's this spirit that makes Electro Acholi Kaboom From Northern Uganda such a compelling compilation. Speaking to RA in 2017, Leo P'layeng, creative partner of Otim Alpha, and a key player in the scene, said, "We want electro acholi to be for everybody, we want people to sing it in Spanish, English, French, Swahili, Luganda—every language. This is not our music, it's music for the world, like reggae, pop and rock." The release of Electro Acholi Kaboom From Northern Uganda should bring that vision one step closer.
Sun / 13 Oct 2019
01. Lady Grace Atim - Adoko Gwok
02. Baby Davlin - Can Lim
03. Opiyo Twongweno - Kolo (Dog Mix)
04. Jahria Okwera - Awinyo Bila
05. Pro Lagwee - Rwot Moo
06. Pan Afrique - Angee Kobo : Rasta Cobra Okot Rework
07. Ojegele - Nyaka Twon Coo
08. Brother Q & City Boy - Can Deg Ming
09. Opiyo Twongweno - Gang Deyo
10. Bosmic Otim - Bandera Pa Kaka
11. Tabu Buzy Body - Kolo Wece
12. Zing Zang - Gang Oling
13. Jeff Korondo - Tum Pa Ocii
14. Lakoc Jojo - Apiyo Nyara
15. Otim Alpha - Nyom Pa Denish