Geoffrey Oryema, Top Musician from Uganda, Loses Battle with Cancer

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Oryema. Photo-Amazon.fr
 
Geoffrey Oryema who wedded African music to Western sounds and developed a large global following has died in Paris, France, after battling cancer, family members announced Friday.
 
The Ugandan-born musician had been living in Paris for many years after his family fled Uganda in 1977 when the country's then dictator Gen. Idi Amin murdered his father, Erinayo Oryema, a cabinet minister.
 
In his youth the younger Oryema fell in love with traditional story-telling, poetry, singing and playing musical instruments, which are all popular in his Acholi community, a core part of the Lwo civilization of the Nile Valley. He also studied acting and was a founder of Theatre Limited, a dramatic performance company, in Uganda in the 1970s. He also studied acting at the Drama School of Academy, in Uganda. His mother had been a director of Heartbeat of Africa, a renowned dance troupe in Uganda. Heartbeat of Africa, was curated by Okot p’Bitek, one of Africa's greatest writer and philosopher, who also hailed from Acholi and was, like Oryema, deeply affected from an early age by Acholi Luo poetry and music. 
 
Oryema began writing music a a teen-ager and learned how to play lukeme, a traditional thumb-piano whose keys are made with flattened metal spikes set over an acoustic wooden box; he also mastered the guitar and the flute.
 
In addition to his own tours, Oryema performed in several major benefit concerts with other renowned artists. In 1989, Peter Gabriel arranged for Oryema to work with the renowned producer Brian Eno. The collaboration led to the album "Exile," which earned tremendous positive reviews and helped solidify Oryema's reputation as a leading musician and song-writer. Oryema performed at the  the Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley Stadium in the U.K., in 1990. Other performers included: Peter Gabriel; Tracy Chapman; Youssou N’Dour; Lou Reed; and Neil Young.
 
Oryema played a benefit concert for Amnesty International in Boston, U.S., for the charity's campaign to raise awareness and put a stop to child slavery and torture. Other participating artists and guests included again Chapman and Gabriel, as well as: Bruce Springsteen; Sting; Michael Stipe, of R.E.M, and others. 
 
He also performed at the LIVE 8: Africa Calling concert in Cornwall, in July 2005. Through his long musical career, Oryema performed in: the U.S., Australia, Japan, Brazil, and in several European countries. 
 
Oryema's body of work includes: EXILE (1990, Realworld/Virgin); BEAT THE BORDER (1990, Realworld/Virgin); NIGHT TO NIGHT (1996, Realworld/Virgin); SPIRIT (2000, Sony Music); WORDS (2004, Sony Music); and, FROM THE HEART (2010, Long Tale Recordings).
 
Geoffrey Oryema was born in 1953 in the city of Soroti, in Uganda. 
 
The names of family members who survive Oryema were not readily available. 
 
 
 

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