Sons of Kemet have never been known to stay stuck in the same path. The band is more of a collaborative effort, that has changed through the years, but guided by the brilliant jazz mind of Shabaka Hutchings. On Black To The Future (Impulse!, 2021) the saxophonist and clarinet player has with him Theon Cross on tuba and Edward Wakili-Hick and Tom Skinner on percussion. In addition, the jazz music they create is, on some tracks, fused with spoken word, song, and rap.
The opening track sets the theme. Under a build-up of horn instruments and percussion, poet Joshua Idehen performs a powerful spoken-word piece that explores the past and present of his people’s oppression. He’s certainly angry and tired which he makes clear.
“Thank you For refusing me that inch Because now I do recognise your yardstick The scales have toppled The curtains have collapsed The blonde baboon’s arse is bare in the open And I am a field negro now I do not want your equality It was never yours to give me And even then it was too minor, too little, too late Pull the balaclava over my heart and set it running My revolution rides a black horse and it is stunning”
Another track, Hustle, has a deep, strong beat to it that makes one want to stand up and march in rhythm. The chorus, “Born from the mud with the hustle inside me”, repeats in such a way that it becomes a mantra that one can imagine thousands of people chanting on the street while demanding change.
For those that think jazz can be heavy on the ears, have no worry. This is not as experimental as Hutchings could easily have made it. This is more dance-able and if anything, full of fire. A subtle type of fire that will make you want to move your way in rhythm to the protest.
Detroit techno and French pop along with Arabic music influences. Mix that with themes of a Lebanese revolution, COVID-19, BLM, the death of Arab LGBT+ rights activist Sarah Hegazy, and much more and you have Nouvelle Vague by Wake Island.
The electronic duo has now released the song twice, once in French and another time in English. Their full length LP is due to drop on April 30th, 2021, and with that album, the duo explores identity and transformation through their immigrant perspective. The album features songs in English, French and Arabic and is “a tribute to the Arab community who are often faced with no other choice but to leave their homes in search of peace and freedom.”
“…we wanted to show the avalanche of events that happened to us during the year from the Lebanese revolution to the Beirut explosion, the never-ending pandemic, Black lives matter, the death of Sarah Hegazy, the dismantling of the music industry and more. All these events affected deeply us on a personal and professional level. That said, 2020 was also a year where we found love, explored new artistic avenues, opened a new studio, found new sources of inspiration and learned how to improve our lives. We felt a profound shift in our society, a rise of empathy, a curiosity about this “other” that we thought so different, but who turned out to be just like us.”
What started in the UK has now grown into a global movement with participants and teams in the US, Brazil, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. The people behind the newly founded Black Music Movement decided they needed to use their voices as artists and respond to the brutality too often shown at peaceful protests.
“Whilst we are involved in protests, we have also set up community projects, we support artists to create material, we are working with schools & prisons and we are preparing a tour. We bring music to protests, but also bring protests to music, we use our art to educate and to strengthen and uplift communities, and we also aim to inspire and slowly change culture itself.”
Shouts spoke with organisers Juke and Phoenix who told me that while completing the process of becoming a non-profit organisation they are designing how the project can be a platform for activists and artists alike as well as an advocate for “those who have not received a fair shot at success in the creative industries due to their complexion, gender, sexuality or other forms of discrimination”.
The video below shows imagery of the organisation’s very first protest. Juke and Phoenix explained to me how important it is for the collective to “bring music to protests, but also bring protests to music”. To impact and change the culture itself is no small task which the organisers of Black Music Movement are fully aware of. That knowledge does not hinder their objectives though and the organisation is constantly welcoming new artists and activists to participate.
Check out the project’s Instagram page until their webpage is up and running.