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Kenyan pop music from the fifties onward has been dominated by guitar bands, playing variations either on the Zaïrean cavacha rhythm or the benga pop style which began with groups from the country's Luo people. Benga took the finger-picking styles of the nyatiti (Kenyan lyre) and applied them to guitars.
Ayub Ogada's 20-year career as a professional musician includes eight years spent in a Nairobi band, some time busking on the Northern Line and a tour with Peter Gabriel - not to mention his forays into the film business.
He was born in Kenya among the Luo people and is an accomplished performer on the nyatiti. But his first experience in a professional band was in Nairobi in 1977, when he joined one of the city's many pop/rock outfits as a percussionist. Nairobi is a city that teems with good-time bar bands, mostly guitar-based, with lyrics sung in one of the country's many indigenous languages. Many of Nairobi's Luo-speaking bands have adapted the style of traditional storytelling within song to narrate the pitfalls - and pleasures - of urban life.
Ayub Ogada moved on to form his own band, African Heritage, in 1979, and with this group he began to explore the mixing of different cultures that has become a hallmark of his music. Eventually he went solo, supplementing his earnings with stints in front of the camera and behind the scenes on movies being made in Kenya, such as 'Out of Africa' and 'The Kitchen Toto'.
In the mid-eighties he moved to London, playing for a while in Taxi Pata Pata, as well as busking in the London Underground, before forming another band, Orchestra Rafiki. An appearance at the 1989 WOMAD festival in Carlyon Bay, Cornwall, led to a long association with Real World Records, WOMAD's sister company. He has released one album, 'En Mana Kuoyo', and collaborated with the likes of World Party's Karl Wallinger, Jah Wobble and, of course, Peter Gabriel. He is currently working on a second album for Real World, developing his mix of African and Western styles.