Geoffrey Oryema 1953-2018

Photo credit: Claude Gassian.

“I was very upset to learn of Geoffrey Oryema’s death on Friday.

Geoffrey was one of the original artists on our label and one of the most loved.

It feels as if we have lost one of our original family members and although Geoffrey went his own way in recent years we always felt he was a Real World artist.

With his rich low voice and beautiful songs he could mesmerise audiences whether in a small club or Wembley Stadium.

His childhood was in Amin’s Uganda and he escaped across the border in the boot of a car after his father was murdered in 1977. 

He made France his home and found great love with his wife Regine and children Chantal, Ajoline and Oceng. 

Throughout, he has shown great courage with all the struggles he has had to deal with in his life and been a devoted husband, father and friend.

A big man has gone and left a big hole but he leaves behind a lot of warmth and many beautiful and emotional songs.”

– Peter Gabriel

Geoffrey Oryema had a long association with Real World and WOMAD and performed alongside Peter many times throughout the years. His escape from Uganda was a central theme of his debut album Exile, released by Real World Records in 1990 and produced by Brian Eno. The album is one of the most popular and significant records in the Real World catalogue.

Dear Geoffrey… always smiling. A sweet, warm, charming and gifted man.

– Brian Eno

His second album Beat the Border was described by Billboard as “a harmonious marriage between traditional and western influences”. It was produced by Bob Ezrin and David Bottrill.

Geoffrey was a gentle, beautiful, profoundly passionate man whose heart carried the spirit while his voice bore the smoke of his beloved, beleaguered country.

I am deeply grateful for the time I was able to spend with him, the music I was privileged to create with him and for all that he taught me about life and devotion.

– Bob Ezrin

Geoffrey Oryema, born 16 April 1953; died 22 June 2018

Geoffrey Oryema and Peter Gabriel at WOMAD in Reading, 1992.

Read a further tribute on the Real World Records website.