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Two Continents Combine to Protest World Violence

Members of Golden and Orchestra Extra Solar Africa combine to form Extra Golden.
Members of Golden and Orchestra Extra Solar Africa combine to form Extra Golden.

In "Osama Rach," the late Kenyan singer Otieno Jagwasi confesses an obsession with Osama bin Laden: "When I am sleeping, I think of Osama," he sings wearily (upon translation from his native Luo). "I am asking President Bush and Osama, 'Why do you have to kill innocent people when you just want to kill each other?'"

The question gains poignancy when posed alongside the undulating waves of interconnected guitar sounds and gently pattering polyrhythmic hand drums. Though the sound is built around Kenyan rhythm traditions, Extra Golden is hardly a typical African ensemble: Ian Eagleson and Alex Minoff (of the indie-rock band Golden) play most of the guitars, while Jagwasi sings and Onyango Wuod Omari, his cohort in Kenya's Orchestra Extra Solar Africa, plays drums.

The group came together when Eagleson, who came to Nairobi in 2004 to research his doctoral thesis on benga music, invited Jagwasi and others to jam. The rock guitarists began playing simple riffs and vamps they'd worked up, the rhythm players cranked out slightly modified benga beats, and Jagwasi started canting and singing improvised lyrics. Soon, Extra Golden -- and, by extension, the wonderful lament "Osama Rach" -- had a powerful sound built on mutual respect, and a way to voice concern about the world in ways that transcend language and culture.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.