Track of the Day: ‘Kothbiro’ by Ayub Ogada

Kenyan singer and musician Ayub Ogada's song 'Kothbiro' is one of the most popular pieces of music in the Real World Records catalogue.

Released in 1993 on his album En Mana Kuoyo, the track is sung in Dholuo, the language of the Luo people of Western Kenya. It is an adaption of a traditional song, and first featured in the repertoire of a rock band which he formed in high school called Black Savage.

As with all of his songs, Ayub accompanies his singing with an instrument called the nyatiti lyre, which culturally is considered to be a woman. “When you start to play this instrument, you practically get married,” he once said. “She won’t like you to play another instrument. Suits me fine; I’m happily married.”

Lyrics

Translation from Dholuo

Kothbiro (rain is coming)
Auma do you hear what I say
The rain is on it’s way
Return our cattle home
Yaye the children
What is it that you think you do?
The rain is on it’s way
Return our cattle home.

Over the years, the song has received widespread recognition through its popularity on film and TV soundtracks. It featured in The Constant Gardener (2006), NBC’s The Philanthropist,  the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony, and a Guinness advertising campaign throughout Africa.

A sample of Black Savage’s recording of ‘Kothbiro’ appears on Kanye West’s song ‘Yikes’, released earlier this month, introducing Ayub’s music to a generation of hip hop fans.

Kanye West - 'Yikes'

Featured Release

  • En Mana Kuoyo

    Ayub Ogada

    Released 16 May 1993

    Kenyan singer-songwriter Ayub Ogada was a busker on London’s Northern Line when he came to Real World’s attention in the late 80s. And this 1993 set – his only record for the label – proved that it was a meeting of minds, with his disarmingly simple arrangements allowed to hang there unadorned, making a lasting impression.

By Oran Mullan

Published on Thu, 28 June 18

Further reading

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