Lately, Luo music has been gaining traction in Mt Kenya region. And even though many residents don’t understand the lyrics, the music is met with vigorous dancing, cheering and screaming as revellers have a good time.
Although many see Mt Kenya and Nyanza as political foes, for fans of Luo music in Mt Kenya, the music seems to unite them.
“It is only our politicians who drive a wedge between us...there has never been any logical difference between us. A Luo has no problem with our music and we love their music. We like their girls and they like ours. Minus politics, Mt Kenya and Luo Nyanza are one big family,” says Epha Maina, the chairman of the Musicians and Composers Association.
In 2005, Kanungo by Otieno Aloka became a near area anthem in Mt Kenya, with even schoolchildren belting it out and dancing to its beats.
And now, Odongo Swagg is taking the stage in the region with the powerful Ohangla beat and tracks like Lindah driving revellers into a frenzy.
“He is called Odongo Swagg...that is all I know about him. But his music is good and my customers are asking me to play it. He is a must artiste in many local bars,” said Maina Mbithi, a bar owner in Maragua town.
From boda bodas and matatus to bars and some individual homes, his music has become a wild fire in the area, with music downloaders reporting good business.
“All of a sudden, people carrying USBs are flocking my cyber seeking that I download for them music by this artiste...some are calling him Odindo Swagger...but I have come to know it is Odongo Swagg,” says a lady cyber attendant in Karatina town.
Lovers of his music cite his strong vocals, rich beat, good instrumentals and raw dancing energy as the things that draw them to his music.
“God! This man just sings, dances and captivates. I certainly know not his mother tongue but I can dance all through his music...any of his is my favourite...I do not even know the titles, just play it and I will jump onto stage to dance,” says Nancy Muhoro from Kandara Sub County.
Gathoni Nyaga, the Murang'a South Water and Sanitation Company (Muswasco) managing director, confesses that “this man is a musical animal” and she likes his “beat and legwork”.
She says that she only learnt of Odongo Swagg and his music last week in an event she attended and the track Lindah was played. But now, she enjoys his music.
“I rarely dance but to this [one] I had to...the beat was simply irresistible. There are maddening sounds he emits from his mouth as the track ends and I gave out Sh200 for it to be replayed...the whole of it is 13 minutes length and I danced for the 26 minutes,” Ms Nyaga adds.
Apart from Lindah, Odongo Swagg is also credited with other hits like Madharao Ang'iyogo, Nyasembo, Chwada Gi Nyundo, Adhiambo Nyosiri, Beryl Nyar Ugenya, Hannah Mama, Odongo Yaaye and Nyakowino.
Others are Nyar Mbita Mama, Osiepe, Simba Odenyo, Osama Dokta and Nyar Agweng'.
Born 30 years ago in Rarieda constituency of Siaya County, he was named Collins Otieno Owigo. He said the name "Odongo" is an ancestral name and his fans nicknamed "Swag" because of his entertainment vibe, and that’s how he came up with his stage name Odongo Swagg.
He says that he was born a musician and “even when I pursued carpentry as a trade, deep down my soul knew it was not [meant] to be.”
Odongo Swagg says cutting a niche in music was not a walk in the park and the financial cost was also high. But through hard work, saving from menial jobs and support from a legion of well-wishers, he managed to record his songs.
He identifies Onyango Jakadenge as the Ohangla maestro who moulded him and connected him to the promoter Wuod Fibi, who he says has made him a brand to reckon with.
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