Every so often we encounter sounds that can only be described and not defined. In the midst of what sometimes feels like a sea of musical monotony, the musicians that make these sounds are welcomed as ones who give us a relief from the stale air. This time that relief has come from Kenya bred KG Omulo, whose first studio album Ayah Ye, has reminded us just how refreshing a versatile musical experience can be.
Ayah Ye projects a synergy of funk, rock, reggae and traditional African sounds, compiled in a way that, simply put, just works. He weaves through both English and Swahili as he delivers powerfully charged lyrics that make you stop and think, adding to the album’s overall intrigue. Described in the past as Afro-Urban, World Contemporary and Afro-Funk, there is more to Ayah Ye than a definition can give us, and is worth exploring further.
The album begins with a song of the same title, displaying noticeable African melodic undertones and a strong funk feel. The rhythm and instruments that give the album it’s funk are consistent throughout, and also give the album it’s cohesiveness; even in songs like “Do You Feel,” a far more rock heavy track, we know that funk’s the word. There are a few tracks that considerably alter the mood of the album as they turn down the intensity, for instance, “It’s a relief,” “Ready To Love,” and “Walkway” are all presented with a reggae beat, and shift the album’s gears into a cool and relaxed state.
Ayah Ye not only seems to cover all the musical bases, but the lyrical ones too, as it not only lends itself to lightness and positivity, but to more heavy subject matter as well. “No Means No,” is an especially political song, presenting the lyrics “From Washington to Kenya, from Pakistan to Sudan we hear the same rants. Ain’t no true government in office, just lobbyists with big egos and big political portfolios. Swimming sharks in the water thirsty for blood and power.” Lyrics like these leave little room for doubt regarding Omulo’s opinions towards political figures, and perhaps also make you reconsider yours. “Quality Woman,” is equally as lyrically important; lighter, this song serves as an ode to all women’s worth.
Like so many of us, Omulo and his music seem to be products of circumstance; in his native Kenya, he was in a successful group (what he describes as a mix between Doo Wop and Lady Smith Black Mombazo,) with which he entertained the likes of 35,000 people. Perhaps it is here that he learned to entertain large crowds with uplifting music, someday leading to what many call a very uplifting and danceable album.
Overall, Ayah Ye emits a powerful, down to earth positivity lyrically, rhythmically and melodically. As Omulo explains on his website, “I can be conscious and get people stirred up instead of bringing them down. I make positive music that educates without judging. I want to create awareness and still make people dance.” Ayah Ye’s success in entertaining, inspiring movement and encouraging meaningful thought shows the truth in Omulo’s words, and makes one expect quality in the future work of this versatile musician.