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The title of the work Tipona means "my shadow" in Rapasa's first language Dholuo.
Early in his music career Rapasa explores different subjects regarding his people’s way of life, the beauty of his land, differences and similarities as well as challenges that communities face in today’s fast growing modern life. Rapasa makes his voice heard through his original composition while preserving Luo sounds to address contemporary issues of today’s music scene. Without losing the authenticity of his roots he builds his music around Nyatiti music to bring different textures to his work which follows the movement and influences that different communities have had to the sound heard around Nam Lolwe (Lake Victoria). Nyatiti, featured as the lead instrument in his album, is an eight string lyre of Kenya's Lake Luo community. To the Nyatiti sound is added a layer of sounds from the Indian community of Kenya with Bansuri flute and Tabla which are blended with sunrise and sunset ambience of Nam Lolwe well interpreted on acoustic guitar and double bass as well as other Kenyan traditional instruments from the Luo community such as the mourning Orutu and horns, and from coastal Kenya with Boum boum and Nyiduonge of western Kenya.
The Album - Synopsis
by Stan Gazemba
The story of my life starts right at the beginning with Mama Aoko, who I barely knew because she died while I was still very young. But I’ve heard so much about you, and continue to hear so much it is easy to contrive an image of you. In my mind you are Pamba Oluoro Chilo (Aoko Pamba), you are pure and white like cotton wool.
After you came Rapar, my grandmother. With grandma there was order about how the day went. There were prayers for specific times that were strictly adhered to. There were rituals around almost everything, including funerals. You were a great influence on me.
Unfortunately I had to leave the idyllic life of the village to come to the city in search of a livelihood like every young man my age. This opened my eyes to the ways of my people. While here in the city people repay money they borrow from friends, back home the villagers treat it like a free gift to which they are entitled; Yie Biro. It scares me from visiting home.
But that is not the only fear. There is also a lot of pressure from my people because I am the first-born. They are saying I am ageing and yet I haven’t brought home my bride, which is hindering the others coming after me from marrying. The elders want me to bring home anyone, even if it is a Nyaloka from a different village who I don’t love. My aunts are even threatening to find me a bride if I cannot do it myself!
And yet I am scared of this new disease everyone likes to call “Malaria”. It is a cunning disease that first sends typhoid or malaria to visit you and remind you that it is around. My people have also called it chira, refusing to address it by its real name –AIDS-- whenever it claims someone.
All this has brought chaos into my life. This homestead is no longer what it used to be when grandfather was still alive. The order that used to be there has since gone, instead there is a lot of Koko (chaos). Now our roots have been uprooted and the seeds of the old tree have dispersed into the wind. I can no longer trace where my Tipona (shadow) is any more. And yet everyone needs to be surrounded by relatives and family to have a sense of wholeness. During my struggles in life I never experienced it from my family.
That is why I am singing in this spiritual way with my nyatiti, talking to my friend Orege, trying to discern some life lessons from him. I am asking myself, Yoo-ere…after all this has happened, what next? At some point a boat becomes too big for the river and it needs a lake. If a tree grows too big it sheds its leaves, which make compost that nurtures other trees. Life is a cycle that is inevitable for all.
Or is it that people have chosen to be as cunning as a hare, forgetting that their ears are plugged like those of a burukenge (monitor lizard)? Have they opted to become
Ng’ama Ikwero, refusing to heed warning from those younger than them? It has become a life full of riddles for me, and hopefully this music and my nyatiti will help me make some sense of it.
All songs composed,written,arranged and performed by Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.
Music arranged by: Nathan Okite.
Main vocals: Rapasa.
Supporting vocals: Rapasa & Ngatia Andrew.
Nyatiti, Gara & Adungu: Rapasa.
Guitars: Nathan Okite.
Bass: Nathan Okite & Stanley Kyalo.
Drums: Thierry Olivera.
Flute: Kirit Pattni.
Orutu: George Achieng’.
Tung’ (Horn): Okumu.
Boum boum & Djembe: Chaloti Obuya.
Nyiduonge (Lead drums): Wakake Otieno & Nathan Okite.
Percussion: Rapasa, Nathan Okite, Wakake Otieno, Prasad Velankar & Dokta DJ.
Recorded, mixed & mastered by Nathan Okite and Jeff Chitouras -
Executive Producer: Nathan Okite & Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.
Photography: Paul Munene.
Photography Assistant: Simora Mwaria.
Photography locations: James,Syowia & Chalo.
Wardrobe: Rapasa & Jack Bryton.
Hair & make-up: Sheila Bett.
Design: Steve ‘64’ Kivutia.
Synopsis: Stanley Gazemba
Lyrics translations: Adam Chienjo, Neema Bagamuhunda, Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno
Lyrics & translations available at: /
To God; for the gift of music, the Osur family Dad and Mum you’ve been a pillar, and my mentor Nyamungu for believing in me.
Special thanks; Nathan Okite’s family for hosting me during the recordings. Nathan Okite for believing and accepting to record my art. Daraja band for suggestions and for playing a number of songs during rehearsals. Musicians; Kirit, Obuya, Okite, Anyanga, Andrew, George, Nyasonga, Adis, Nelly, Prasad, Wakake, Ogaro - it’s been an inspiring and amazing journey. For those who played in this album, thank you for sharing your skills
To all art lovers, friends and others I may have been unable to mention, you all inspired my work
Songs of Equality
These songs were written in response to the experience of human rights defenders at risk in Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Kenya and Indonesia, through the research project 'Navigating Risk, Managing Security, and Receiving Support' led by Dr Alice Nah at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York. / Nyimbo hizi ziliandikwa kwa kukabiliana na uzoefu wa watetezi wa haki za binadamu nchini Colombia, Mexico, Misri, Kenya, na Indonesia kwa mradi wa utafiti Mradi ‘Kuepuka Hatari, Kumudu Usalama, na Kupokea Msaada’wakiongozwa na Dr Alice Nah kutoa Kituo Cha Applied Human Rights, University of York.
For more information on the research project see securityofdefendersproject.org or contact / Kwa taarifa zaidi kuhusu mradi wa utafiti kuona securityofdefendersproject.org au kuwasiliana
Composed and arranged by John Otieno Oduor Rapasa, 28/02/2017, Nairobi, Kenya
Kutunwa na kupanga John Otieno Oduor Rapasa, 28/02/2017, Nairobi, Kenya
Rapasa Otieno: Lead Vocals (Mwimbaji mkuu), Nyatiti, Ongeng'o and/ na Gara
Prasad Velankar: Tabla and Dholak
Andrew Ngatia: Bass
Kirit Prattin: Bansuri
Fezile Mauncho and Daniel Osanyo: Supporting Vocals (waimbaji wasaidizi):
Photography (Picha): Martin 'Drix' Muyeshi
Artwork (kazi ya Sanaa): Steve '64' Kivutia
Communications (mawasiliano): Loi Awat
Languages (Lugha): Luo and Kiswahili
You can listen to more of Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno's music on Soundcloud.