Real World Records re-release Oryema's nostalgic portrait of Uganda.
"Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are an exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not one of them. That's when it hurts" - Miriam Makeba, South African singer.
The moment Geoffrey Oryema crossed the Ugandan border into Kenya in February 1977, he became an exile. Erinayo Wilson Oryema, Geoffrey's father and Idi Amin's longest serving minister, had recently been killed in a suspicious car accident and Geoffrey took no chances.
From Kenya, Geoffrey fled to Paris, then a creative hub for African culture in Europe. This proved to be a perfect place for the 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist to hone his skills.
A musician in exile can express him/herself in a number of ways. South African singer Miriam Makeba moved to the US to campaign against apartheid, revelling in the freedom the position gave her. After the 1976 assassination attempt, Bob Marley saw his London exile as a rare opportunity for recovery and writing. He did, however, have the support of his ever expanding troupe The Wailers - not so much one man's exile then as a communal exodus.
Geoffrey Oryema's Exile, on the other hand, is a wistful reflection on the Uganda of his youth, remembered through Swahili and Acholi folk songs. And as a child can be ignorant of political tension, so does Exile gently wash over the anger and frustration that Makeba associated with the role. Oryema's pain is instead pure sadness, with his voice and his primary instruments - the lukeme (a thumb piano) and the nanga (an eight stringed harp) - carrying a distinct yearning for, as Oryema remembers it, "that clear green land". Particularly touching are the lukeme tracks which leap from note to plucked note with the memory of what could only have been a happy childhood.
Exile is available to buy at Real World Records.
Clyde Macfarlane is a social anthropology graduate from Manchester University. While studying he was a regular travel writer and music critic for Student Direct, specialising in Caribbean and African music genres. In 2009 he won a Guardian Student Media Award, and he has since had articles published for the paper. Follow Clyde on twitter.