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Meet FLEE: the project compiling iconic local genres from around the world

FLEE is a project dedicated to uncovering forgotten musical genres from every corner of the world. Not long ago they released their first issue, a compilation of Kenyan benga music – a genre which never gained wider popularity outside of East Africa.

Following that record FLEE have published a book titled Benga Kaleidoscope Kenyan, a sister release that extrapolates on the research they undertook for FLEE 001.

benga music flee project kenya vinyl

Photos: Flee Project

Meet the FLEE project, a small but dedicated team unearthing sonic relics such as Kenya’s iconic benga music movement.

Meaning “beautiful thing” in the Luo language, benga “developed in East Africa around the 1970s and quickly became the federating anthem of all Kenyan tribes”. Inspired by the syncopated melodies of the nyatit (an eight-string lyre played by the Luo of Kenya), benga is fun, danceable, and rich in cultural heritage.

FLEE approached the genre with a careful candour, well aware that they were potentially broaching a topic that was dear to Kenyan and African culture. FLEE 001 and the accompanying book were compiled without “drifting into a simplistic, ethnocentric or commercial approach”, and it shows.

The presentation of both products is gorgeous, the record shipping with a 16-page silkscreen printed journal with articles in English and French. The book was co-published by Bureau Sepän, a 116-page hardback again written in English and French.

In the journal and even more so in the hardback, FLEE investigates not only benga but a wider scope of East African music and how it remains represented in a digital age. Throughout the project FLEE have collaborated with academics, musicians, and archivists including Mbithi Masya, Andrew Eisenberg and Atelier U-Zehn.

No matter your knowledge on benga or East African music as a whole, the journal and book which accompany FLEE 001 are a compelling read. At its core too, the release is a fantastic and enthralling listen.

We’ll be keeping a very close eye on FLEE’s issues to come. For now, this compilation is a very welcome addition to our record shelf.

Find out more about Flee Issue 001 and order your copy here.

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April 4, 2019