Friday, May 26, 8 p.m.
Raccoon Motel, 315 East Second Street, Davenport IA
Touring in support of his latest album Spanish Villager No. 3 – a work in which the native Kenyan, according to Americana Highways, "takes on more of a rock-ish tone while also posing provocative questions to his adopted home" – lauded folk artist Ondana headlines a May 26 concert at Davenport's Raccoon Motel, his laurels including a "Best Americana Album' Grammy Award nomination for his debut recording Tales of America.
J.S. Ondara was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1992, and as a child, he wrote poems, stories, and songs, despite his parents not being able to afford an instrument for their son to play them on. Having grown up listening to rock songs on his older sisters’ battery-powered radio, he was inspired by the likes of Radiohead, Nirvana, Death Cab For Cutie, Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, Guns N' Roses, and Bob Dylan. and after winning the green-card lottery in 2013, Ondara moved to Minneapolis. He taught himself to play guitar and perform during open-mic nights, and although he decided to study music therapy in college, he dropped out of school to return to playing small shows at coffee houses.
The nascent singer/songwriter's big break came when Minneapolis-St. Paul radio station KCMP 89.3 The Current played one of Ondara's songs on-air by pulling audio from his YouTube channel, where he had been uploading covers of his favorite recordings. Ondara's eventual debut album, Tales of America, was released in February of 2019 by Verve Label Group. Despite only 11 tracks making the final track list, Ondara wrote more than 100 songs for the album, all based on an immigrant's life in America. In support of the album, Ondara embarked on his first headlining tour that March, and after the album's release, the musician debuted on Billboard's Emerging Artist chart at number 37. Tales of America also landed on the Billboard Heatseekers Album, Americana/Folk Album Sales, and Rock Album Sales charts, and Ondara was subsequently nominated for both the Grammy and as Best Emerging Act at the 2019 Americana Music Honors & Awards. Ondara cites Bob Dylan as his musical hero, which is why he chose to live in Minnesota and wears his signature fedora, and over the years, he has toured with the Milk Carton Kids, Lindsey Buckingham, and the Lumineers, also opening select 2019 dates on tour with Neil Young.
Ondara headlines his Davenport engagement on May 26 with an additional set by Kiely Connell, admission to the 8 p.m. concert is $25, and tickets are available by visiting TheRaccoonMotel.com.