The title of Extra Golden's debut record, "Ok-Oyot System," translates to "It's not easy." Which is appropriate -- there's nothing simple about playing in a band whose members are split between Washington and Nairobi. But Monday night at the Black Cat's Backstage, Extra Golden defied logistical woes, performing a set of songs that expertly fused traditional African music with slyly placed rock riffs.
Guitarist Ian Eagleson formed Extra Golden in Nairobi while studying benga, a style of upbeat Kenyan pop. Not content to simply observe, Eagleson recruited local singer Otieno Jagwasi and drummer Onyango Wuod Omari to collaborate on a few tunes. Eventually, Eagleson's longtime friend Alex Minoff added some guitar while visiting from Washington. Although Jagwasi died in 2006, the band has persisted, adding singer Onyango Jagwasi (Otieno's brother) and guitarist and vocalist Opiyo Bilongo.
Performing songs largely drawn from their most recent record, "Hera Ma Nono," Extra Golden used three guitars to spin interlocking melodies into a burbling wall of sound. Over the course of 10 minutes, "Obama" -- which praised the presidential candidate for helping the African members of Extra Golden to secure U.S. visas -- morphed from latticelike, repetitive guitar work into a funky and distorted groove. With a core riff reminiscent of the Troggs' "Wild Thing," "Jakolando" skewed slightly psychedelic -- raising the temperature in the room enough to melt rigid audience members into a sweaty, undulating mass.
-- Aaron Leitko (July 2008)