In Nakibembe, a small village in Uganda's Busoga kingdom (one of the country's four remaining constitutional monarchies), locals have long reserved a communal area for musical performances and social events. In the middle of this space lies a deep pit that serves a single purpose: to amplify the embaire, an immense xylophone made up of between 15 and 25 wooden keys that stretches across the trench. Log xylophones are common throughout East Africa, but the way the music is played by the Basoga - an Eastern Bantu ethnic group - is specific and unique, with its own tuning, dances and supplemental instrumentation. Up to eight players can surround the embaire and play simultaneously, overlaying hypnotic polyrhythms while additional members of the ensemble add vocals or play shakers and drums.
Nakibembe Xylophone Group are one of the last remaining groups that perform with the embaire, and as anyone who's caught their live performances will know, they create a complex and layered wall of sound that's completely transfixing wherever it's presented. The band are a regular fixture at Nyege Nyege festival, and in 2020 appeared in Berlin at the legendary Berghain nightclub alongside Jakarta-based vanguards Gabber Modus Operandi and Harsya Wahono. On the group's debut album, they present five tracks as an ensemble and three tracks in collaboration with Indonesian trio. Heard together the music demonstrates not only the remarkable sound of Nakibembe's own kinetic interaction, but sonic ripples that correlate with more distant forms, from Indonesia's metallophone-led gamelan music to the heady digital processes of the sound art sphere.