Is there a band out there whose success is more counterintuitive than Extra Golden’s? Their guitar-heavy songs, most of which stretch well past the five-minute mark, feature politically charged lyrics, usually in the Luo language, and include long stretches during which no words are sung at all. It’s not exactly a surefire formula. And yet American guitarists Ian Eagleson and Alex Minoff, with Kenyan musicians Onyango Wuod Omari and Opiyo Bilongo, create music that satisfies both mind and body by fusing rock and Kenyan benga, a genre known for its charging dance beats and snaking guitar lines. Though it may not seem like the most obvious synthesis, it serves as a great reminder of the connection between rock and African music.
The band love to feed off the crowd, and after their recent stint on the African Soul Rebels Tour, their skills as live performers have only improved. Their inclusion on the U.K.-based bill challenged audiences’ perceptions of African music, according to Minoff. “With so many people, their idea of African music is seeing a group of guys in robes playing acoustic instruments and seeming very regal,” he said. “But the truth is that Africa is a huge place, and it’s not in a vacuum. There’s so much different stuff going on there all over the continent that’s not what a 55-year-old British person thinks of as African.”
The band’s political element does not exist in a vacuum, either. They sing about issues that affect them personally, such as the violence that followed the Kenyan elections in 2008 and left vocalist Bilongo stranded and separated from his family. “For several days, he and his band were just stuck in this room. They couldn’t go out,” Minoff explained. “They didn’t have any food, or anything.” The title track from their recently released album, Thank You Very Quickly, is dedicated to fans who donated money to help the members of Extra Golden and their families. Here in Goleta, we’re very grateful to have them visit. Extra Golden plays The Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta) this Friday, May 15, at 9 p.m. Call 967-0907 or visit clubmercy.com.