Monday, March 3, 2014

Ohanglaman Makadem: The Kenya Contemporary Benga Titan

When Ohanglaman takes to the stage with his boisterous voice you will be left in awe. He has travelled the world performing for huge crowds bellowing his lyric prowess. What makes Makadem standout is his ability to play with a live band and is dexterity in strutting the guitar. On stage he oozes the true essence of an African performer and an ambassador of Kenyan true cultural heritage.

Makadem, who has drawn comparison to the great Fela Kuti shares with this writer about his many shows abroad where he is given the status he deserves. “I am more appreciated abroad than in Kenya probably due to my style which is rich in that Africa spice which is not appreciated locally”, he intimates. His casualness does not betray the vast talent the dreadlocked artist possess. “How many artistes in Kenya can play with a live band?” he poses with a chuckle. Indeed countable established artistes in Kenya can play an instrument. He opines that most Kenyan artists want to do a Jay Z and appeal to the under 25.

His versatility is evident when he swiftly transformed from Ragga music which he did in the 90’s to Benga. This move can be credited to the renowned producer Tabu Osusa who took Makadem under his wings. Makadem has not looked back since then and has graced concerts with great artists like Mighty Culture, Glen Washington, Baab Maal, Mahotella Queens, Lokua Kanza and the late prolific reggae artist Gregory Isaacs.

This humble artist is lyrically conscious and is not afraid to tackle issues ranging from corruption and tribalism that continue to eat the fabric of Kenyan society. Makadem is arguably the most toured Kenyan artist having performed in well attended concerts both regionally and abroad. The number of festivals that Makadem has graced are so many that it will take acres and acres of space to list them down. Some of the festivals include Cannes Film Festival, Cannes France, Kilifi Festival, Kilifi Kenya, Opening act for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Copenhagen Denmark, Visa Pour La Creation (Music residency), Cite International des Arts, Paris France, Opening act for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and  Copenhagen Denmark One World Scandinavian Tour, Denmark & Sweden.

The soft spoken Benga artist informs me that he is still working very hard on improving his skills and become a titan in the African music scene. “I was at Cite International des Arts in Paris France through the invite of Institute Francais for a 3 month music residency to horn my skills in Kalimba under the tutelage renowned Lolendo Mvulu”, He enthuses with a smile. At the residency he also got an opportunity to sharpen his guitar playing skills under the watchful of Syrian Mbenza who is arguably one of the best guitarists in Africa.

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