The cover is deceptive: two American musicians and two African musicians pasted onto a field. One of the American fellas looks stylized to a fault, the other one casual and comfortable looking. And the photos of the two African musicians almost look like random candids, caught during moments between performances or just plain hanging out. Either way, somehow, it doesn’t look right, these two pairs of musicians being in the same place at the same time, let alone in the same band. Maybe it’s just a little bit of that good ol’ indie rock irony coming through, but you’d never guess how fluid and how natural a band Extra Golden actually sounds by looking at the photo collage on the front.
The deeper into Extra Golden one gets, the more interesting they become. The two American dudes involved are Ian Eagleson of Golden and Alex Minoff, also of Golden and Weird War. The African gents are Otieno Jagwasi and Onyango Wuod Omari of Kenyan rock band Orchestra Extra Solar Africa. The four came together after Eagleson traveled to Kenya for a doctoral thesis project on benga music, and began collaborating on the album we hear today.
A cross-cultural collaboration in the truest sense, this is most certainly rock music, and yet it has a very definite African inflection in many of the songs. Vocals are sung in both English and Swahili, which can be a little confusing. Yet, this provides even more of an interesting contrast, making the vocal sounds themselves just another part of the rich texture of melodies. “Ilando Gima Onge,” an eleven minute track that stretches into a long, yet linear jam, marries a slinky groove to an exotic series of riffs, opening the album with a mystique that subsides on the following track, “It’s Not Easy,” which sounds more or less like a more conventional rock song, albeit a mellow one. The title track is an instant highlight for its upbeat rhythms and intertwined guitars. On “Tussin and Fightin’,” things even get a little funky, Eagleson taking over on vocals and letting the wah-wah do it’s thang.
Extra Golden’s Ok-Oyot System is a surprisingly accessible debut and a soulful album created by four unlikely collaborators. Sadly, it’s likely to be the only one of its kind, as Otieno died due to liver failure after the project was completed. As a final project, Ok-Oyot System is an impressive way to go, and may serve as a compelling jumping off point for the Onyango, Alex and Ian from here on out.
Golden – Golden Summer
Paul Simon – Graceland
Supersystem – Always Never Again
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.