‘Ekuka’ is a mesmerising survey of Ekuka Morris Sirikiti’s thumb piano performances broadcast on radio stations in North Uganda between 1978-2003. All previously unheard beyond the stations’ range of transmission,
Hailing from the Langi tribe of Lira, Northern Uganda, legendary local griot Ekuka Morris Sirikiti performs his music in various situations – festivities, market days, and other gatherings – on a homemade foot/drum contraption coupled with the Lukeme; a small, handheld thumb piano that produces flurries of metallic rhythmelody under deft digits, and is maybe best known as an Mbira in its heavily distorted use by the DRC’s amazing Konono No1, as well as myriad other recordings from the vast Central and East African region.
Entirely comprising home recordings of the original radio broadcasts made on various devices, the music on ‘Ekuka’ is understandably distorted to differing degrees, resulting in a broad spectrum of fidelities that are both unavoidable and inherent to the music, its reception, and its perception by those who didn’t catch the broadcast as it happened. The 12 songs selected zig-zag across the timeline 1978-2003, with an alternating patina of ferric noise that camouflages their chronology – it’s difficult and unnecessary to discern their recording dates, as the songs serve a timeless social purpose, from everyday reminders to be a good husband; take your kids to school; and don’t disturb the wife of your son; to Government commissioned warnings about venereal diseases, drinking alcohol and paying taxes.
Considering this all took place against the backdrop of tribal warfare and cattle raids by rebels, the raucous laughter on ‘In Boloney For Ayinet’ demonstrates the humour and pathos behind the songs in a way that may literally escape listeners elsewhere. And in that context ‘Ekuka’ is quite unlike most other vintage recordings which resurface outside of Africa beyond, say, Honest Jon’s ‘Something Is Wrong’ and ‘Bellyachers, Listen’ sets, which admittedly document a much earlier period c. 1938-1957, but were also selected from recordings not specifically or even vaguely conceived for the international market. As with Nyege Nyege Tapes’ previous dispatches from modern day Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, ‘Ekuka’ provides a genuinely street-level, unfiltered perspective on unfathomably long-rooted traditions in a way that sounds incredibly fresh, unfamiliar and hugely interesting to keen ears.