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Rapasa Otieno


Rapasa is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, music educator and contemporary dancer.

He is an advocate of traditional music. While playing several indigenous instruments to East Africa, Rapasa’s principal instrument is Nyatiti, an eight-string lyre. It has travelled along the Nile with the Lüo community who plays it and whose people have now settled along the shores of Nam Lolwe (Lake Victoria) where Rapasa is from.

Through its storytelling, his music gives an insight into our ancestor’s wisdom. Rapasa is very focused on this heritage. He has in depth knowledge and understanding of traditional music particularly from the Lüo customs. Yet he has researched Nyatiti music in such a way that he is able to place it in the context of today’s music landscape. He pays particular attention to engaging with his audience, be it with his lyrics, interaction in live concerts or through workshops.

His debut album, “Tipona” (my shadow), was released in March 2020. It was recorded and pre-mixed by Nathan Okite, mixed and mastered by Jeff Chitouras. It is available to listen to on Under the Radar, and to buy or stream on all major digital platforms. Tipona is a spiritual journey through the eyes of a young village boy stepping into manhood.

In collaboration with the University of York he created an EP in 2017 on the project Human Rights Defenders at Risk called “Songs of Equality” which was later released in December 2019 on most digital platforms.

Rapasa was selected to participate as a fellow in prestigious musician gatherings such as Making Tracks (2019) which toured last autumn across the UK, and OneBeat (2017), and back in 2016 in the Nile Project. Some samples of collaborations composed during OneBeat can be listened to on Soundcloud Found Sound Nation.

Earlier this year 2020 he played a very well received solo act at the Finnish Church in London for a concert organised by TunedIn London which also involved a primary school workshop and local to Newcastle at the Old Coal Yard with guest artist Izo Anyanga on Litungu which made for an interesting duo.

He was guest of honour for the Christmas Party of Joy of Sound 2019 which involved a workshop and performance. Joy of Sound is charity focusing on creative art around music to make it available to students who would otherwise be excluded from these activities.

In August 2019 he shared the stage Madalitso Band at St Mary Music Hall and in May 2019 Rapasa performed live and led two workshops at the local Afro Fusion Arts Festival Harambee Pasadia.

Talking about his residency at Sage Gateshead, Rapasa said: “I am excited at the idea of investigating more ways to become independent in my creativity as well as strengthening successful collaborations with local artists. I would love the output which I will present to incorporate my research of how the change of audience from home in Kenya to the North East of England towards the path of exploring my tradition in today’s music context.” | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter