Grammy Nominee Ondara Releases ‘Folk N’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation’

The 11 songs in the collection were written in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ondara 2020 press shot Ian Flomer
Photo: Ian Flomer

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ondara has released the new album Folk N’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation. The 11 songs in the collection were written in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The widely-celebrated native of Nairobi, Kenya, who has now dropped the “J.S.” from his recording name, composed and produced the set in lockdown in Minneapolis over the course of just a week. Listen to one of its highlights, ‘Lockdown On Date Night Tuesday,’ here:

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The new work swiftly follows Ondara’s Tales of America debut of 2019, which was described by Radio 2’s Jo Whiley as “special, really special’ and by Rolling Stone as “a clear-eyed acoustic newcomer’s tale of American promise and calamity that establishes him as an invigorating new voice in American folk music”. Tales of America went on to a nomination for Best Americana Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards. Ondara was also a nominee as Best Emerging Act at the 2019 Americana Awards.

“Wearing down the equilibrium”

“As I’m sure it has for all of us, I found the period of isolation to be wearing down the equilibrium of my sanity,” says Ondara. “After being stuck in a mental rut for four weeks, I woke up one morning and spent three days writing these songs and three more days recording them in a friend’s living room in Minneapolis. It was a kind of vomit of words and melodies, compulsive and without any control or forethought.

“I wasn’t trying to make a record, I wasn’t trying to do anything really, I was only trying to provide myself with some kind of therapy, a desperate attempt at preserving my sanity,” he continues. “They are stories about the ramifications of a whole population isolating; about the personal, political and economical scars that will linger for the rest of our lives long after we have found our way past this.

“In crisis, the human spirit is laid bare, its volatility preyed upon and its resilience tested. This record is hence not only a portrait of the bizarre times we have unknowingly fallen into, but also a collective tale of the human spirit navigating uncertainty.”

Folk N’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation is out now. Scroll down for the tracklisting, and buy it here.

1. Pulled Out of the Market
2. Mr. Landlord
3. Lockdown on Date Night Tuesday
4. From Six Feet Away
5. Isolation Anonymous
6. Shower Song
7. Pyramid Justice
8. Isolation Boredom Syndrome (IBS)
9. Isolation Depression Syndrome (IDS)
10. Isolation Blues (Blame It on the Pathogen)
11. Ballad of Nana Doline

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