Geoffrey Oryema

Geoffrey Oryema (RIP)

Singer / Chanteur

Geoffrey Oryema, born April 16, 1953 in Soroti, Uganda and died June 22, 2018 in Lorient, France, is a Ugandan naturalized French musician, songwriter and singer of rock and world music.

He was born on April 16, 1953 in Soroti, Uganda but grew up in Kampala (the capital of Uganda) where he learned to play various instruments: guitar, flute, lukeme (thumb piano) and harp nanga . Her father and mother were respectively English teacher and director of a dance company.

At the beginning of the 1970s, he expresses the desire to become an actor, enters a theater school and then creates his own company: “Fou de Brecht, he will also take inspiration from the techniques dear to Stanislavski and Grotowski to write. avant-garde pieces. A theater of the absurd scratched with tribal sounds and improvisations, set with allegories, fed with rumors and onomatopoeia, whose influences will be found later on in his songs “, according to Frank Tenaille in his book Le Swing Chameleon.

At the age of 23, Geoffrey Oryema fled to Paris in 1977 to flee the dictatorship of Amin Dada after the political assassination of his father, Minister Erinayo Wilson Oryema, crossing the border with Kenya hidden in the trunk of a car. Then in 1989 he moved to Lillebonne (Seine-Maritime).

He recorded his first album Exile in 1990, produced by Brian Eno, and published by the label Real World (recently created by Peter Gabriel). He accompanies himself to create his music of various typically African instruments, including the kora, the nang and the lukeme, but does not disdain either the electric guitar and the rock instruments. French guitarist Jean-Pierre Alarcen accompanies him for a long time, then is joined by Dominique Gastrein (keyboards), Patrick Buchmann (drums, percussion, vocals), Loy Ehrlich (keyboards) and Nicolas Fiszman (bass). Followed numerous concerts around the world (USA, Japan, Brazil, Europe) as part of the festivals W.O.M.A.D. with Peter Gabriel, Midnight Oil, Arrested Development. He notably performed at Woodstock 94, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the legendary festival.

In 1994, he joined forces with Tonton David and Manu Katché to form the KOD band, and they composed the soundtrack of the film Un Indien dans la ville; whose theme song, Tout son route, is a huge success and allows Tonton David to gain greater notoriety. In 1996, the trio won a Victoire de la musique, in the category Composer of film music.

Born in the English language, he began to speak French and wrote songs in that language, recording in 1996 a duet with Alain Souchon: Bye bye Lady Dame.

From 2006, he is accompanied on stage and in studio by his son Oceng Oryema (drums, percussion) and by Chaek Sylla (guitars, sampler, vocals), replaced in 2013 by Ali Otmane (guitar) and joined by Stephane Marrec ( bass and contrabass) and replaced by Kevin Gravier. In 2010, he went to Russia to record From The Heart with Tony Levin and Alex Swift.

He sings in English, Acholi, Kiganda, Lingala and French. From his first album Exile, he knows an international success with Yé lé lé (generic of the emission of France 2, the Circle of midnight) or Land of Anaka, co-written with Brian Eno and of which Peter Gabriel assures the choruses. The French and international press has often portrayed him as an “African Leonard Cohen”, to which he had taken Suzanne, one of his famous songs.

He is becoming more and more like an African artist with rock influences, creator and artist in his own right and very appreciated on the international music scene like Lokua Kanza or Richard Bona.

Sick, Geoffrey Oryema died in Lorient on June 22, 2018, following a cancer. His ashes are then scattered to Anaka, land of his ancestors in northern Uganda that he evokes in his song Land of Anaka.

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