Geoffrey Oryema

Frank Bessem's Musiques d'Afrique

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The music of Geoffrey Oryema is of particular beauty. He has a style of his own, using melodies from Uganda, as well as the sound of the Likembe (or Lukeme) thumb piano. The feel of the music is rootsy, but at the same time accessible. Influences of Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno can be heard. He sings in Swahili and Acholi, but sometimes also in English and French.

At young age, he learnt to play the Nanga (seven cord harp lute) from his father, and his mother, who was the director of a dance group called The Heartbeat of Africa, taught him to play the Lukeme and the Nyamulere flute. Geoffrey was at the time more engaged in writing and playing in theatre. Things becames complicated for him in Uganda, as he plays were politically engaged, and Geoffrey Oryema left Uganda of the Idi Amin era in 1977 by hiding himself in the boot of a car, after the death of his father, Erinayo Wilson Oryema. He arrived in Kenya, where he presented his play « The Reign of Terror » at the French Cultural Centre in Nairobi. He was subsequently hired as a musician and singer, in a Circus Company in France. During the 1980s, he was studying and working for a newspaper as system operator, but besides these professional activities he gave occasional music workshops, and obtained a Karate Black Belt in 1988.

After contacts with W.O.M.A.D (World of Music and Dance), Oryema was in the position to record three albums for the British Real World label, « Exile », « Beat the Border » and « Night to Night », albums that encountered considerable success in the World Music scene. He later switched to Sony Music France, and recorded « Spirit » (2000) and « Words » (2004). He still lives in France.

Born: 16 April 1953 in Soroti, Uganda
Style: world music

Album cover 'Exile'
Album cover 'Exile'

Title Year Label Remarks
From the Heart 2012 Long Tale Recordings
Words 2004 Sono CDS 9155
The African Odysseus (The Best of) 2002 Wrasse Records WRASS065 Compilation
Spirit 2000 Sonodisc CDS 8840 Also: Sony Music SAN5005062
Night to Night 1996 Virgin 841644-2 Also Real World CDRW 58
Beat the Border 1993 Real World CDRW 37
Exile 1990 Real World CDRW 14

Page created February 1998

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