“This is more than just about me / This is bigger than life,” asserts KG Omulo, riding an urgent high-hat and snare figure on the title track of his solo debut. It’s no idle boast. The 11 pithy tracks on the Kenyan immigrant’s auspicious new album tackle a range of topics with global-political import — everything from corrupt governments to corporate welfare and safer air emissions. “Same old, same old from Washington to Nairobi / From Pakistan to Sudan we hear the same rants,” Omulo chants on “No Means No,” a funky appeal for solidarity and resistance addressed to oppressed people everywhere.
The record’s messages are heady enough, but they wouldn’t pack half the wallop they do were it not for the sonics that drive them, a bracing mix of reggae, funk, afrobeat and jazz that just doesn’t let up. “Intervention,” the set’s molten opener, features crisscrossing rhythms, free jazz-style horns and funkadelic guitars to almost Beefheartian effect. “Stop Me Now” opens with astringent orchestration that recalls “Revolver”-era Beatles, while “Ready to Love” employs skanking horns and trippy dub effects to convey defiance and hope. The love referred to in its title is no mere emotion, but a healing force.
Several tracks include lyrics sung in Swahili, not all of them strident or overtly political. “Cleary Boulevard” incorporates Swahili and Spanish, its undulating funk and soul grooves serving as the soundtrack for a summery reminiscence about blasting Afro-Cuban tunes under the Caribbean moon.
“Intervention,” “Cleary Boulevard,” “No Means No”