Did Okello Max’s Boss just make me Luo?
I was in class six when my two friends and I decided to start our own band. Other than occasional drumming on the wooden class desks, we had no knowledge of how to operate musical instruments but imagined our passion for music was all we needed to become superstars. We swore that we would be the Coldplay of Kenya when we ‘grow up’ acoustic, musical and famous. But adulting has a way of humbling you, and as fate would have it, over a-decade-and-a-half later, none of us are musicians. At least that is what I thought until I listened to Okello Max and felt reconnected to the vibrations that had made music so entrancing for me that my hair stood at the edges.
I literally stumbled upon the Okello Max Boss album. It was one of those evenings you are at a friend’s house so you let them pick the next song on Youtube even as they ask out of politeness what you want to listen to. “Kuna album kali ya Okello Max Nataka kuwawekea sijui kama mmeskia,” he finally offered after my lover and I told him to go ahead and play something nice, whatever that means.
So Okello Max had a December album, I was thrilled. I had been listening to his Drill Rhumba on repeat and my brain was already singing ‘Wololo, mama milka yo, yo, yo in anticipation as our friend was searching the internet for what I was sure would be an experience.
“Okello max ni nani, ule wa Nakufa?” my lover asked.
“Eeh ametoa album mpya inaitwa Boss,” our host said as he selected the album. Now you have to understand this is no laptop or some home theatre. Our friend has this speakers that would be a better fit in a club setting, complete with a mixer, and stabilizer; the bass palpitates in your heart even at a low volume. And this is not just some Nigerian on some catchy rhythms or the whistles of Amapiano, it is all that and more because it is the incredible voice of Okello Max, and in Luo, but do I say?
My first assessment was that Okello Max experimented with this album, every time the next song came on, it was completely different from the previous one in style, genre but still retained an element of his style, catchy lines and each was a number for a club banger. We were all nodding in agreement that the diversity in this album is unmatched. The question was what will he do next.
I knew what he would do next, I could bet there had to be one full Luo song in there, with no presences to modernity, one that would speak to the tribesmen in their tongue.
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“And being a luo, I’m sure he has a full luo song in there” I said in premonition. After all, Luo is a lifestyle, and he must stay true to it. Now, I am Suba, a very small tribe in South Nyanza, with the most beautiful landscapes, and wait for it… women! We always get confused for Luos, something I found quite disrespectful to our dying tribe. Even though I cannot speak Suba, anytime someone would make the assumption that Subas and Luos are the same tribe I would make a point to correct them, thinking in some way this will keep it alive a little longer.
But never would I have imagined that I would someday want to be associated with the tribe that assimilated us and is now consuming us, literally. But here I was, on a Saturday afternoon, spread out on a friend’s sofa, my lover by my side, tipsy from the Gin and so damn proud to be somehow associated with Luo. That is how powerful music can be, how powerful art can be.
“Na ulisema tu ukweli” my lover says to me when the song I predicted came on. Kinda Piny. It’s even better than I anticipated. We all love it and I already want to listen to this album again. You can tell he put in the hard work, and it paid off.
You have to listen to believe me, the powerful collaborations will leave you in awe, and by the end of each song you’re already singing along to the chorus. If that is not talent, tell me what is? He is able to speak to a wide variety of audiences, from the old benga lovers to young trap or drill lovers. There is at least one song for everyone in there. To me that has to be the most impressive thing about it.