Culture Horizon is a Kenyan Rock band consisting of Purity and Gloria on vocals, Christian Sangwa on rhythm, Colbert Akunga on lead and George Atsula on drums. Last week the band released this song, its third single since being formed.
Where does this song lie in the overall picture? Sound wise, this song is very different from their earlier singles. Where ‘Baba Joshua’ was awash with Congolese and Rhumba vibe reminiscent of Madilu, Restart is characteristically a rock and roll song that sometimes metamorphs into a mellow creäture. That can be either good or bad depending on the way you look at it.
On one side, this is a bad strategy. For a fledgling band that is seeking to carve out its own musical identity, you would hope for a bit of consistency. The afro-lingala rock feel that the band established with Baba Joshua was, to say the least, an unparalleled success. And no band in the Kenyan horizon let alone Africa has the skills and natural talent to pull off that kind of sound. It felt natural, balanced and unique. If the band had continued upon the same trajectory, I feel they would have been a force to reckon with. As things stand, the band has taken the risk of changing up things, rattling the bird-cage as it were. Muddling up the winning formula. While exploration is a remarkable attribute, it is best left to when relative success has been achieved. You want to give the audience a consistent mix of something they will love. Only change-up things when you foresee the magic going out of it. With this strategy taken in this particular song, ‘Culture Horizon’ have nipped their own progress, and more importantly, nipped the progress of a tantalizing ‘rock subgenre’ before it blooms.
On the other hand as a band in a scene that is fickle and unresponsive, mixing up things stylistically to broaden your music’s reach is in fact a wise and well advised policy. There is no shortage of people who will find with this kind of start-stop rock and roll vibe that the band has adopted. That is especially so when the song is good. But it becomes a blemish if the gamble fails to pay off and the song is to put it mildly, one that exposes rather than conceals the band’s frailties.
In addition, some of those frailties, I must point out begin with the problematic nature of the vocals in this band. It’s not as if Purity and Gloria aren’t adept at singing. Far from it. But they seem to struggle with the sometimes rugged and electrified nature of the song. They seem off the pace at times. When the vocals and instrumentation are in harmony then there is the added problem of the vocals being slightly inaudible and overshadowed by the guitars.
But before you go off and write it off completely, this song does have its moments in the sun. On the brighter side of life where there is world peace and no one pays taxes, this song showcases drummer George Atsula’s perhaps unmatched and matured talent. Just like in previous songs the pacing is always in step, and the drums are handled with a combination delicate flurry of touches and measured frenzy. It is the only aspect with which one finds no fault with.
The guitar work by Christian Sangwa and Colbert Akunga here is to a large degree convincing. It is genuinely delicate and precise when it needs to be, and doesn’t blow over into unsolicited showmanship. It is also unapologetically brash when it’s time to chug-chug-chug.
This song has very little in the way of memorableness. It has a fleeting quality about it not to mention being disjointed, a mix of elements that don’t quit mix together. It is, out of the three Culture Horizon songs that is least appealing character wise, there being no single stream of thought gelling it together. The way the song was mixed is a far cry from their first single ‘Baba Joshua’. During certain intervals the guitars are on completely different lanes, making the rhythm a tumbling shamble of sounds that is hard to listen to.
Overall out of Culture Horizon’s three songs it isn’t the shiniest tool in the box, however this song manages to showcase the individual capabilities of the band members.
This review is written by Dani Kobimbo, a guest reviewer. Dani is a mindless critic that dreams of creating a utopia of African Sounding rock music. Dani runs the awesome Kenyan rock blog, Heavy and the Beast, be sure to check it out!