Live Footage: Orchestra Gold Performs “Keleya” at Bandcamp, Oakland

Oakland-based psych outfit Orchestra Gold is rooted in the decade plus-long collaboration between Malian-born vocalist Mariam Diakite and Oakland-based guitarist Erich Huffaker. The duo first met in Bamako, Mali in 2006. At the time, Huffaker was very busy: he was working for a nonprofit, studying djembe and dunun (drums) and immersing himself in the city’s burgeoning music scene when he had met and befriended Diakite. The duo recognized a deep and profound musical connection, which led to Diakite relocating to the States to start a band — Orchestra Gold. 

Since Diakite’s relocation to Oakland, the rising psych outfit has specialized in a kaleidoscopic sound that meshes Malian folk with psych rock and elements of Afrobeat and soul. Sonically they create a trippy and funky soundscape featuring swinging rhythms, funky bass and scorching guitar riffs while Diakite delivers heartfelt and thought-provoking lyrics in her native Bambara language. Their long-held goal is to transcend national and musical borders while being a much-needed healing force.

The band’s third album Medicine was released earlier this year. The album sees the band firmly continuing their pursuit of spreading healing and community through their music. In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about two album singles:

  • Koniya (No Benefit to Envy),” a song which featured shuffling rhythms, scorching feedback and distortion-driven riffage serving as a lysergic and sinuous bed for Diakite’s expressive delivery. The end result was a song that arched upward towards the cosmos while rooted in earthly matters. 
  • Gende,” an expansive and trippy song that beings with a lengthy, dreamy introduction featuring looping and swirling guitar textures. Around the 2:25 mark or so, the song rapidly morphs into a breakneck Fela Kuti-meets-Black Sabbath-meets-Tinariwen-like ripper, centered around a funky horn line, scorching riffage and looping guitar textures. Diakite’s expressive vocal and shuffling, propulsive polyrhythm glide and dance around the song’s disparate parts. The end result is a song that’s lysergic but defiantly — and boldly — African and danceable. 

Orchestra Gold is about to embark to Austin for this year’s SXSW where they’ll play sets at several showcases. In order to build up buzz for their SXSW appearance — and to get the word out about their crowdfunding campaign to cover the tremendous cost of overhead for the trip, the band shared live footage of them performing album single “Keleya.” “Keleya” is centered around looping guitar, shuffling percussion paired with boom bap-like drumming, a James Brown-meets-Fela Kuti-like funky horn line paired with Diakite’s plaintive wailing. The end result is a hypnotic yet danceable song that brings James Brown, Fela Kuti, and Black Sabbath to mind.

For more information, check out the band’s GoFundMe here. If you dig this band, and you have a few bucks, any support you can offer is helpful.