Meet Dr Olaleye, inventor who named a guitar after Nairobi

The guitar has been designed to mimic the continent of Africa

The African Electric Guitar. [Photo by Akorede Olaitan]

When you think of an electric guitar, you probably don't imagine one shaped like the African continent. However, Dr Ezekiel Olaleye, has revolutionised the music industry by introducing the African Electric Guitar (AEG).

Africa is known world over for producing some amazing music genres from Benga in East Africa to Afrobeats in West Africa. In spite of that, the beautiful continent is yet to receive global recognition for her own instruments.

The Nigerian musician-cum-innovator, has finally put the motherland on the map. Through the creation of the AEG, Africa can now now claim a part in the annals of musical instruments.

Dr Olaleye, founder of the Instruments of Africa (IOA) was born in Nigeria but eventually moved to the United States of America (USA) as a teenager after his parents won the Green Card Lottery.

Dr Olaleye, can be simply described as a music connoisseur. Growing up, under the guidance and influence of his father, he developed a love and talent for playing piano, drums, and the guitar.

After moving to the US, he joined a band where they primarily played Jùjú music. This is a style that originated from the Yoruba tribe of West Africa, specifically Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

During the research and development stage, the founder spent hundreds of hours fine tuning the first AEG. According to Dr Olaleye, the AEG was designed to be a symbol of African pride and to give voice to the African continent on the world stage.

"I have played several music instruments since I was a child. However, I have always had an affinity to the electric guitar. To me, it's an instrument that speaks. This is the reason why I decided to design an instrument that would help the continent of Africa speak (sic)," said Dr Olaleye, exclusively to Pulse.

Designing the guitar was the easy part, but for some reason, Dr Olaleye struggled to make it sound good. He was forced to redesign the electromagnetic component that amplifies the guitar sound and adjust the guitar neck measurement.

"At first, I had designed the headstock to resemble Madagascar. However, the design wasn't practical. I was forced to redesign it to have a unique curvy Y-edges. This allowed the strings to stretch much longer, producing a warm, clean tone, eliminating noise," he said.

Something else that's unique about the guitar is the shape of the plectrum. Regular guitars offer plectrums designed in a triangular shape. However, Dr Olaleye decided to revolutionise the game once again. Designing the plectrum in the shape of South Africa.

After a series of testing that included getting feedback from legendary Nigerian musicians such as Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, Dr Olaleye in 2016 finally introduced his invention to the world.

Nevertheless, a product without a name is just a concept, and once again Dr Olaleye, revolutionised the game. His AEG products don't have regular or boring names. Instead nine models have been named after iconic African locations, mostly capital cities.

Nairobi features on the list as well as Accra (Ghana), Cairo (Egypt), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Lagos (Nigeria) and Soweto (South Africa).

"Kenya is a special country. Across the globe everyone knows about this place but more so Nairobi. I have interacted with numerous Kenyans across the world and even to an extent made lifelong friends who tell me all about this beautiful city. Therefore, I had to dedicate one guitar to the residents of Nairobi," he said.

For those interested in buying a piece, the AEG ranges from Sh120,000 to Sh240,000. However, the products are not currently available in the Kenyan market, something the founder reiterated will change soon.

“The electrifying sound, the positive vibe indicates that the world wants to listen to more African music and this is the soil where all that is produced,” he said.

In light of the African electric guitar, IOA is also working on other series of products that will be released in the nearest future. A hint from the founder suggests that another electronic product could soon be released as soon as 2023.

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