Six years ago, Kenyan folk singer J.S. Ondara left his home country behind to live with an aunt in Minneapolis and pursue his dream of becoming a musician. Though he was wholly unprepared for the windchills of the northern Midwest, he’s been able to channel his experience as a stranger in a strange land into his music and adjust to life in America.
The 26-year-old artist released his debut album, Tales of America, in February, which leverages his unease as an outsider into an album full of romantic storytelling—Ondara counts Bob Dylan as a major influence—but with a sound all his own.
We caught up with Ondara at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, where he made the second stop on his US and European tour.
This photoessay is the fourth installment inOn The Road, a series of visual essays that explores the creative lives of notable musicians, onstage and off.