Music Anthology

Available to stream on major digital platforms and to buy on Bandcamp

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The title of the work Tipona means "my shadow" in Rapasa's first language Dholuo. In this collection of work the artist is exploring the passage from boyhood to adulthood in his homeland.



In this work Rapasa is looking back at his tradition and what he learnt at a young age from his elders and from growing up in rural Western Kenya. Having moved away from his natal province the artist is reflecting on KWEChE.

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EP of two songs were written in response to the experience of human rights defenders at risk in Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Kenya and Indonesia

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In this work Rapasa is looking back at his tradition and what he learnt at a young age from his elders and from growing up in rural Western Kenya. Having moved away from his natal province the artist is reflecting on KWEChE.

You might wonder what is Kweche? What does it mean? The real question you may ask yourself is what does it mean for you? Kweche translates from Dholuo as Taboos with its singular form Kwer. As much as Kweche have been suppressed by some communities, if you look closely you will find some examples relevant to your culture and you will be surprised to find some very similar ones across very different cultures. It has been attempted to define the word taboo/kwer by philosophes and anthropologists however some slight differences can be found in the literature(1). In the context of this work, taboo is meant as an interdiction emanating from God/Nyasaye/Nyakalaga or ancestral spirits which leads to misfortunes if not adhered to. More specifically in the Luo culture the repercussion can be on the individual, its family or wider village such as disease known as “chira”(2).

Traditionally, the Luo community encourages marrying outside the tribe. As the community traveled down the Nile from southern Sudan and settled into new territories, they intermarried with members of local tribes they came into contact(3). As one travels and marries out of his/her community, each is confronted with a different culture with their own customs and sets of taboos which likely differs more or less and have different intensity in their beliefs. What does this mean about the taboos themselves and how we relate to them? How can one explain such differences? How does one adapt to a new culture? How about the effect it has on the children of such marriages. These are questions that live within this work which are illustrated by myths, tales, stories, riddles and proverbs.


  1. Nyarwath O. Philosophy And Rationality In Taboos With Special Reference To The Kenyan Luo Culture. Master Thesis. University of Nairobi, 1996.

  2. Mboya P. Richo Ema Kelo Chira. Nairobi: East Africa Publishing House, 1978.

  3. Miruka O. Oral Literature of the Luo. East African Educational Publisher, 2001.


Kwithe is a word used when responding to a storytelling call. It is nothing new in African traditions. Rapasa remembers the warm evenings of his childhood when he, his elders, brothers and sisters would tell stories. It formed part of his learning. In this song he is calling for stories, responds to this call and shares some proverbs and riddles. We are asking ourselves what we have learned between the lines.  

     Mnae uru



Nyatiti, gara, ongeng’o (ring), shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.


In this song Rapasa is inviting listeners to enjoy his own parables and let them interpret as they wish while relating to their own life experiences. Here are some example of these parables:

     Ohhh Piny ne u mer,

     Ohhh Piny ne u ger,

     Dede ogongo chamo lum,

     Dede ongongo huyo  

     Osiepe wuoyo awuoya adiera kara onge,

     Jodala wuoyo awuoya dhano kara ogajore.


Nyatiti, gara, ongeng’o (ring), shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Guitar and bass guitar: Nathan Okite.

Nyiduonge (tin drums): Izo Anyanga.

Pon Kawuoyi

As Rapasa continues to recall knowledge around taboos from his elders, he tells us about what it felt like growing up as a boy. It is true in many African settings that boys and girls have distinct places. Rapasa had the chance to explore both roles which was the best way to prepare for the life to come. Thanks to Nyasonga, his grandmother (mother’s side) Rapasa learnt that it is a taboo for a mother-in-law to pull a goat ‘kwero msiro’ and the proverb “a fool never dies”. One thing that his grandmother Adis (father’s side) used to say is that a boat never kills everyone on board a witness must live.

     Odaro maro ok yuaga diel

     Awinjo ni rasund thone tek

     Mano dacha yie ok neg ga ji duto te da.


Nyatiti, gara, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Oyao Tich

A young man is pioneering a new and controversial business. Leko is a practice done when a Luo woman’s husband passes. As such when the man dies there are a number of things that should happen such as traditional cleansing, helping her through the grief, and so forth. Who would consider doing such a job? Is Lako/Leko/tero an actual job? People would say “So and so has lost his way he is just inheriting widows in the village”. It is not a job one would wish their family member to be involved in as such. Why is it frowned upon when it is so important in order to hold the family together in the community? This thoughtful young man, after studying, and observing the community for such a long time, decides to pioneer this as a formal business only to land him at his aunty’s compound! The damage has already been done. He is reduced to being jobless and ashamed after finding out the next morning that he slept with his aunty.

     Nyathi ng’ane kang’aneni wiye ombachni

     sani tero mana mon e dala ka


Nyatiti, gara, shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Fiddle: Frankie Archer.


When it is raining hard one needs shelter. Away from home the rain of events and challenges means that support is in much need. Let’s support each other during these rainy days and feel the human warmth that this song brings to our hearts. 


Nyatiti, gara, shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Vocals: Sabrina Otieno.

Bansuri flute: Kirit Pattni. 


As long as human beings have existed we have been able to adapt to many changes in the environment. How does change affect the qualities, practices or routines that reflect lineages? Do you lose your brotherhood or sisterhood? Customs certainly are different between communities. Issues can be approached differently. In this piece Rapasa is looking at neighbourly life. How a fault in old plumbing systems can lead to a chain of miscommunication between different institutions. Not all events should be seen or treated negatively some are steps to invent ways of living a better calm life. Let’s celebrate living in harmony!


Nyatiti, gara, ongeng’o (ring), shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Guitar and bass guitar: Nathan Okite.

Oyieyo Owe Yoo

As we or our children become adults, the relationship we maintain can be different depending on the closeness we had with our parents. The son or daughter might be caring more for the parent they have seen as providers not only of affection but also of food and material even if this is helped from the unseen support of the other parent. As the child grows and starts their own family they will tend to help the mother figure especially when money is involved. In the worst case scenario families lose their grip on each other.


Nyatiti, gara, shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Nyiduonge (tin drums): Izo Anyanga


Wich means head in Dholuo. This piece is in an unusual timing for Nyatiti music which is amplified by the deep texture of double bass to create more intimacy. It explores the tension between identity and time. Can these two elements function independently? How far can we travel back to the past and collect every piece that makes us who we are now? It is about knowledge/tradition passed on and is symbolised by the question... 

    Omera odi igero nadi?


Nyatiti, gara, ongeng’o (ring), shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Double bass: John Pope.

Tong’ Kose Bilo

What can you do if someone decides to keep for themself something you asked them to look after, when you were away? 

Maybe a spell in any form can help to regain it back. A visit to Obange, son of Agoro can be a solution, this man is like a snake that enters a hole, wets it and never dries it! He then proceeds to say that there is a problem in this pitch that needs to be resolved.

So my people help me resolve this problem. 


Nyatiti, gara, shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.


During his Early years of building affinity with the instrument Rapasa used to be advised to consider bringing up a family which people tend to assume that most nyatiti players missed on. People would say music can divert your attention. For Rapasa Nyatiti music brought him closer to his tradition and learnt many more stories through it. This song is a collection of different stories in Siaya county, the heart of Nyatiti music.

The first part of the song Rapasa is illustrating how he is proud of where he comes from and the path he took when deciding to become Ja Thum (nyatiti player). To have a good feel of the town, the song rolls off with children’s playful chorus tune. Each town has its selling story, Ugunja is about the famous Maro Oketho Ugunja, Nyamonye is well known as a harbour for tilapia fish trading and Osieko Island for the mosquitos which makes it unappealing to visitors. Another story narrates how some members of the police abuse their position of power especially during the night. As such Ombul can not trust her lover anymore. At night he is happy to see her but never acknowledges her during the day.

The song is also a collection of praises such as one about the funny situation that our biological needs have a great importance and another about people looking down on others based on their professions even though they are the ones who are not bringing the most to the family.

The respect and attention bodily elimination is given to is of no doubt. No matter how big or small you plan to construct your home, this small building that is dedicated to this has to be included in the budget to an extent of which, one not only has to buy a padlock to lock it in because of concerns of being stolen, you also end up employing security guards to protect it.

When visiting their future in-laws, two brothers are surprised by their reactions to their profession as welders. Their future in-laws consider it the easiest job in the universe as you can do it with the eyes shut. Little did they know that a big dowry could have been brought to them if they had taken these young men seriously.


Nyatiti, gara, ongeng’o (ring), shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.


Andiwo in dholuo translates as brew, a popular traditional Luo beer.

Consuming it without limits has some severe consequences!

You could end up in endless drama.

“Time no go wait” you may think you are busy or still too young to focus, excess can bring you down. All the same, we all know that the best brew and gossips in the village are at Onyango’s home.


Nyatiti, gara, shakers, vocals: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Guitar and bass guitar: Nathan Okite.

Executive Producer: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

All songs written, composed, arranged and performed by Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Music arrangement mentor: Nathan Okite.

Recorded, mixed & mastered by Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Music production mentors: Dan Burt and Nathan Okite.

Recording location: Jeff Dean.

Photography: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Photography Assistant: Sabrina Otieno

Wardrobe: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.

Design: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno and Sabrina Otieno.

Synopsis: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno and Sabrina Otieno.

Lyrics interpretation: Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno.


To God for the gift of music.

To Sage Gateshead particularly Emily Jones and Matthew Jones for the great support they have provided during Artist in residence 2020/2021.

To Opiyo Okach for preparing the media programing for live presentations of this work.

To Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla for reviewing the audio.

To Damaris Muga and Dan Burt for reviewing the design artwork.

To Richard and Paula.

Special thank you to all my masters of Nyatiti in Alego and Ugenya in particular Prof. Nyamungu.

To all my friends and followers out there, I give you this piece of art from my heart. God bless you all!

                                                                                                                                                           Thu Tinda !!!

Tipona Booklet Spreads_edited.jpg


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.
Props: Rapasa.
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
                                                                                                                                                                Thu Tinda!!!




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 or contact / Kwa taarifa zaidi kuhusu mradi wa utafiti kuona 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

                                            Thu Tinda!!!