Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, World
Extra Golden's first two offerings were exciting, wildly successful experiments in integration and transcultural music-making. OK-Oyot System, released in 2006, was an honest and ear-opening attempt at integrating a pair of American rockers and a pair of Kenyan benga musicians, and the two halves merged well, utilizing various African folk styles and the looser feel of American indie rock. Hera Ma Nono brought some lineup changes and a very successful attempt at tightening up the groove quotient, while not necessarily expanding the palette.
Extra Golden is now three for three. Thank You Very Quickly continues the streak begun with the band's first two releases. The six songs here overflow with the heady mix of funk, Afro-pop and smart, politically aware lyrics. Yet these danceable anthems that reference the violence in Kenya as well as AIDS and other causes to not depress.
Extra Golden's third album closes with the title track, a song thanking the band's fans for donating money to keep the Kenyan members' families out of harm's way during the violent convulsion that heaved through the country after last year's contentious election. It's a buoyant song that typifies the band's seamless blend of American rock music with benga, Kenya's ebullient and propulsive dance music, but like a lot of benga songs, it packs a serious message into the lilting, doubled vocals, sung mostly in Luo, with an English verse by Ian Eagleson. "Next time, it could be you," Eagleson reminds English-speaking listeners; near the end, there's a cry of "ok-oyot!" amid some celebratory cheering, a reference to the title of their debut LP, and a phrase that roughly means "It's not easy.
Ian Eagleson wasn’t the first Western musician to trek to Africa, but he might be the Western musician who took his visit the most seriously. It was far from a mere jaunt aimed at adding a little extra musical flavor to his band Golden’s recordings. Eagleson traveled as part of his doctoral research into the music of East Africa. In 2000, while in Kenya for that research, he began documenting the popular, guitar-heavy form of dance music known as benga.
Currently on tour with Baaba Maal and Oliver Mtukudzi in the latest African Soul Rebels package, Extra Golden are a curiosity. Formed by American rock musician Ian Eagleson after he travelled to Kenya to study the country's guitar-based benga music, this is a Kenyan-US band still evolving its own hybrid style, mixing east African rhythms, chanting vocals and rapid-fire guitar work with western riffs and slide guitar. Extra Golden are big fans of President Obama, who (as a senator) helped the band's Kenyan members secure visas, and was rewarded with a song in his honour.
Extra Golden’s claim to modest fame is the group’s shared love of Kenyan benga. Ethnomusicologist and founder Ian Eagleson’s immersed himself in the style as the focus of his doctoral dissertation, and half of the Chicago group’s members come from Kenya, international stars in their own right. The unyielding authenticity created interesting musical problems across the band’s first two albums; some songs were rock, others were benga (not having a background in ethnomusicology, one can only assume they were getting it right).