Is the whole world is going crazy? Crazier than you can remember during any other period in your life? Fresh emergencies. Headless chicken syndrome. Eye-crossing, constant setbacks. Times of crisis can cause flurries of fruitless effort. All one can seem to do is survive and simply try not to make a bigger mess.
Fortunately, there are people that can make glorious fuel from the bullshit of crisis. They cast it about the garden of the world, and somehow turn it all into bounty.
Such is the case of an anonymous British collective called Sault. In June, they released the amazing 20 song record, Untitled (Black Is). Here is a record that is speaking directly to the times, especially to the many current and persistent issues of racial identity, injustice, and misunderstandings.
Rooted in modern soul, funk, and rhythm and blues, it is inspiring and emotional protest music. It’s challenging, fed-up, and yet filled with warmth. Edifying and demanding action: Sault, Untitled (Black Is) (2020 Forever Living Originals UK). Check out:
In west Africa, Mali is wracked by political unrest, an onslaught of jihad, poverty and tribal war. Recently, there was a military coup overthrowing a tenuous government. The country, once a place of tolerance, has undergone years-long struggles in the face of extremist religious sectarianism. People risk death to retain and assert their musical, and other cultural, traditions.
From Niafunké, Mali, musician Afel Bocoum cuts a princely figure. In the documentary film, It Must Make Peace, Bocoum can be seen sitting on a rock with a guitar resting on his knee. Behind him, the landscape of Mali whispers with its beauty. Bocoum speaks with a passionate and intense authority about his beloved native land, and the importance of preserving the varieties of Mali’s cultural and musical heritage.
During the 1980s and 90s, Bocoum played in the touring/backing band of the great singer and guitarist Ali Farka Touré. At 65, the musician has now forged a long solo career and he draws an impressive list of collaborators for his upcoming release, Lindé. Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillas,) and Nick Gold (Buena Vista Social Club, Talking Timbuktu,) share credit as co-executive producers. Players on the record include Afrobeat pioneer, the late percussionist Tony Allen, and trombonist Vin Gordon (Bob Marley/Skatalites.)Bocoum once again gives voice to Mali for the entire world with his new album.
From the press packet: “Lindé is an album with a message – in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world, and a homeland struggling … Afel Bocoum urges hope, solidarity and unity. ‘We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,’ Afel says. ‘If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.’”
Traditional and modern instruments are blended with vocals resulting in, “… a gently undulating flow that emanates from a source hidden deep in the historical and mystical traditions of (Mali), enriched along its way by musical tributaries and cross-currents. It’s music that rolls rather than rocks, graceful, unforced and minimal by design.”
Special thanks to my friend, Paul R. Chandler, for sending me the press materials and an advance copy of Lindé. Chandler produced the album and recorded the songs at his Bamako studio (Remote Records).
This song kicks ass:
Penda Djiga by Afel Bocoum from Lindé (2020 World Circuit Records).
29 August 2020