Mvua ya mawe kwa mfalme
November 6, 2013 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Sir Elvis is his stage name, but his real name is Elvis Otieno, and he may be the most successful country musician in Kenya. That's partly because Kenya doesn't have many country musicians.

Jump to 5:27 in the YT interview for The Gambler.
posted by jquinby (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you have opted to go straight for the music in the second link and you are convinced you hear a Scandinavian Johnny Cash (or Don Williams), the first link explains his accent.

Love those dulcet tones and here's to seeing him find big success.
posted by NoMich at 4:56 AM on November 6, 2013


“Every time we hit the stage, it's always like a shock,” Otiengo says.

Wow. That was unexpected.

I'd like the see the reaction on a Nashville stage. Shock and then applause - 'cause this guy is good! How is it that so many foreigners can sing with a perfect "American" accent?

Really, why shouldn't American country music have a large following in Kenya? No doubt there are plenty of Kenyans who drive trucks, drink beer, and have women who run off with the best friend and take the dog.
posted by three blind mice at 5:39 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed, from a call-out in the article (and PRI's recorded interview):

Elvis may be African, but his early life is straight out of an American country song. He was born in a whistle-stop town on Western Kenya's railroad line. He's the son of a Pentecostal preacher who played gospel music on the guitar.

I think he and Johnny Cash would've had plenty to talk about.
posted by jquinby at 6:01 AM on November 6, 2013


I heard this story on NPR last night. Sir Elvis has a very rich and sonorous singing voice, but his speaking voice is superb.
It would be so grand if he would deign to record himself reading the label of a Dr. Bronner's Soap bottle; he has just the right voice for it. I don't know why, but that occurred to me sort of fleetingly. I would listen to it each night before beddy-bye-time.
posted by Alonzo T. Calm at 6:04 AM on November 6, 2013


I'd like the see the reaction on a Nashville stage. Shock and then applause - 'cause this guy is good!

Well, good for a Kenyan via Norway imitating Kenny Rogers, but Nashville must have thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers, and pretty much any one of those cats will be twice as better than this guy.
posted by pracowity at 6:10 AM on November 6, 2013


Its encouraging to hear that the Old Country maestros (Haggard, Jones, Pride, etc.) are gaining more (or a resurgence in?) renown in Kenya and elsewhere, instead of the vile treacle that is Contemporary Pop Country. Seriously, we Americans need to do the responsible thing and try to contain the Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw/Brad Paisley/Trace Adkins* blight before it metastasizes and inundates the rest of the globe in a frothy meringue of hackneyed sentimentality drizzled with jingoistic yodel-sauce, topped with a bemulleted cherry of ostentatious Light beer consumption. Or something.

Or is it too late for containment? I honestly don't know.

* also Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum etc etc etc foreva
posted by Alonzo T. Calm at 6:14 AM on November 6, 2013


Awesome, but just to say there is nothing strange about this. Country music has been huge in Africa (more southern and western than eastern) for 40 years and there are actually (or used to be) many African country musicians. Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and Don Williams, in particular, are well known voices to nearly any African over 40.
posted by spitbull at 6:19 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is it that so many foreigners can sing with a perfect "American" accent?

That's the voice they hear people singing in, so that's how they sing. There is a probably apocryphal story about George Martin asking Elton John to sound "more British" when they recorded the Princess Diana version of "Candle in the Wind" and John replying that he couldn't.
posted by Etrigan at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2013


Metafilter: a frothy meringue of hackneyed sentimentality drizzled with jingoistic yodel-sauce.
posted by jquinby at 6:55 AM on November 6, 2013


I heard 'The Gambler' about every week on Kenyan radio this year, so it's not super surprising to me that someone's steppin up to fill that obvious niche in the culture. You see a lot of Kenyans in cowboy hats when travelling abroad, too....
posted by kaibutsu at 3:34 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah when I was in Kenya this year for five weeks, on our interminable drives in Nairobi to work, it was clear that country music is very popular, albeit behind reggae, and that weird morning show where that guy attacks people asking for advice.
posted by smoke at 5:07 PM on November 6, 2013


Right, how could I forget Kenny Rogers. He is probably tied with Jim Reeves and Don Williams, as a set the most popular white male American singers in Africa and the Anglophone Afro-Caribbean alike. But it resonates strongly in the African and African diasporic imagination.

Something about the smooth, gentle baritone voice. It's marginal in American country history, always on the pop side of the genre.
posted by spitbull at 6:34 AM on November 7, 2013


Also, it's little documented but reggae was heavily influenced by country, which is very popular in Jamaica. To this day many Jamaican reggae artists put out country records for local markets.
posted by spitbull at 6:35 AM on November 7, 2013


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