Friday, June 18, 2010


A roundup of some of my favourite songs of the week.

Bibanke – Asa

Fire on The Mountain –Asa

Eye Adaba – Asa

360 – Asa

Gonna Take a Miracle - Laura Nyro & Labelle

You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me – Laura Nyro & Labelle

Monke Time, Dancing In The Streets - Laura Nyro & Labelle

The Bells - Laura Nyro & Labelle

People Get Ready – The Blind Boys of Alabama

Green Onions – Booker T. & The MGs

Woncha Come Home – Joan Armatrading

Albion – Babyshambles

Moonshadow – Labelle

Asa makes a disproportionate appearance on the list and there’s a reason for that. She’s simply a genius. Her voice is warm and husky (The voice of a Continent?), the orchestration lush and her guitar work inventive. Her self-titled debut album is bold and political yet melancholic, reflective and even sensitive (with an Afro-American thump for good measure). And yes she has dreadlocked hair, Africanists of the contemporary variety lover her for it. I’m indifferent but one listen to Fire on the Mountain and your hooked to that catchy rhythm, that unshakable chorus, the undeniable truths. She is the epitome of New Africa, ballsy and in your face. She takes no prisoners – and all of us are guilty of something…

Who’s responsible for what we teach our children?

Is it the internet or the stars on television?

Why O why? Why O why O!

Let the emancipation from mental slavery begin – this time by a woman.

Laura Nyro also shares a special place on the playlist for the simple reason she reinvented soul way back when. And she’s Japanese. Her seminal collaboration with the Goddess(es) of Soul Labelle (Moonshadow is perhaps their most clever song – and it was a cover!) gave spiritual birth to a sound, not new but groundbreaking, and what an album it is, and what voices? Powerful vocals, sublime orchestration, the stuff of Sunday afternoon drives with the sun in your eyes and a lover by your side…

And finally there’s People Get Ready. Few songs invoke the Negro Spiritual quite like this one. Curtis Mayfield penned it down decades ago for The Impressions but the message rings true and clear. The Blind Boys did a super sonorous cover with hints of Ben Harper on the fret board (subsequently it became my anthem of the week); Alicia Keys and Lyfe Jennings (channelling Al Green) also did a wistful rendition at the end of the film Glory Road. The song’s message was simple; things will get better for the blacks that is – and they did. It’s a song about hope but more than that it is a song of tangible aspiration and optimism. Between Asa and Mayfield lies a place I call the New Africa. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there. It won’t be easy but it’s within our reaches, within our grasp. And here’s the best part, our own dark hands will build it. We don’t owe anyone anything. The time is now so

People get Ready

There’s a train a-coming

You don’t need no baggage

Just get onboard

All you need is faith

To hear the diesels humming

You don’t need no ticket

You just thank the Lord!


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