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When I (Eric) first met Isaac Mugunda Omamu he was playing for Mercy Myra at a New Years show at Safari Park Hotel in 2003. It is no secret that at that time, Izzo as we fondly call him (pronounced ‘Eye-zo’ – rules of double consonants affecting the sound of the preceding vowel thrown emphatically out the window), was completely enamoured with the Congolese guitarist way-of-being. Izzo even spoke Lingala! This is like being a non-Kalenjin long distance runner and learning Kalenjin just because you want an ‘in’. Anyway I guess it worked because Izzo is the best guitarist I know of- and I say that with no regrets or hesitation. He is also immensely versatile and allows his fingers to stroll casually into jazz, reggae, funk, ska, ndombolo, whenever they so please.

Born in Nairobi on 15 August 1983 to a guitar-playing preacher father and a housewife mother Izzo was raised in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, spending most of his childhood in Jericho estate, an estate that has produced many musicians and that ironically gets it’s name from the Biblical city that was brought down by the musicians of the Levis in the days of Joshua. (Refer to Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho if you don’t believe me!!).Izzo spent most of his childhood days doing childhood things like riding the sewer that ran from Buru Buru down Jogoo Road. He soon saw there wasn’t much of a future in that and opted instead to take up the guitar.

Like Jimi Hendrix, Izzo plays the guitar upside down and wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do if you gave him a left-handed guitar just like most people who’ve learned how to type in chicken-scratch would not be helped by any level of Pitman (to show my age) or Bill Gates invention. (It’s not enough to imagine the complexity of this by imagining driving a left hand drive when you’re used to driving a right. People who drive in one ‘culture’, say Kenya for example, are always worried that they will inadvertently get on the wrong side of the road in America or France. I always assure them that the sight of an oncoming 22-wheeler semi truck -or lorry as the rest of the English speaking world refers to them- flashing headlights and swear words to boot would cure them of that forever).

Izzo is a most sought after guitarist and plays for all leading musicians in Nairobi including Aaron ‘Krucial’ Rimbui, the amazing Sauti Sol and Sara Mitaru to name but a few. Izzo also played for Kenya’s own Suzanna Owiyo at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony where Kenya’s Professor Wangari Maathai was presented with the coveted award in the year 2004.

He is the bandleader and longest serving member (2004) of The Best Band in Africa formerly known as Mapinduzi Band.

Career Highlights

Band Leader for Eric Wainaina and The Best Band in Africa

With Angelique Kidjo at Unicef’s 50th Jubilee Celebrations at The Hague in 2005. Other artists featured on that evening included Shakira

With Suzanna Owiyo at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony, Oslo Norway 2004

Played for The Soweto String Quartet at the Safaricom Classical Fusion in Nairobi (2010)

House band- Israel Houghton during his 2010 Kenyan tour.

Played for Deitrick Haddon at the Spread The Love (2010) Festival

Played with The Best Band in Africa formerly Mapinduzi for Baaba Maal

Appeared on music video with Baaba Maal, Eric Wainaina and The Best Band in Africa

Has played extensively at Mavuno Church

Graced the Sauti za Busara(Zanzibar)Festival stage in 2004 and 2008.

Also played with Tanzania’s Lady Jay Dee at Blankets and Wine (March 2011)

 

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