There is so much evidence on how our lives are being transformed by the current crisis. It is even on our playlists. I no longer need commuting music because well, I am no longer commuting. I don’t need my traditional feel food playlist to prep me for work because i am working from home. I go on more runs than I lift weights so I listen to more ..cardio music ? Is that a thing, cardio music ? I am no longer looking for excitement and energy, but looking for peace, and reassurance in things in people, and also in music. The genres I had associated with life and energy no longer satisfy me in the ways they did before, and new sounds have emerged. Or old sounds I only used for personal rituals have come to the forefront of my mind.
I am at home most of the day, so I can now do things like, break out into a guitar solo without thinking of what my co-workers will think. I can now break into an electric slide in between frying plantain on my work from home lunch break. The music that has guided my every day rituals are transforming. I feel my playlist is having a conversation with me. It is reflecting back to me what is happening in my subconscious. The music is helping me see where i am emotionally, what i am hopeful for, what i am anxious about, and how i think this all ends.
These are my most played songs during the pandemic. It is quite different from what my pre-covid playlist was in many many significant ways. My day usually began with some good vybes Stevie Wonders, delved into a podcast for my commute, some soft jazz for work, and then some hip-hop and grime for the gym, and then some soft piano to help me sleep.
This is a new playlist. This playlist that has kept me at peace, dancing, and hopeful. It is also just a really cool vybe. The magic with these artists is in the discovery that happens. when you follow the link. They have extensive catalogs and there is a thread that runs through them all – soul.
Their music possess a deep reverence for pain, and promise. This is music both for the end of the world, and also for its rebirth. I hope you find something you can keep for yourself, and can become part of your new rituals. Let me know if you do. Tweet to me @DrCibe or tell me on IG @odogwuibe.
My new Monday Music Hadoro’s music is colorful, playful and timeless. I see bright blues and yellows when she sings. She is a brilliant intellectual and musical mind. Her music sounds like a mix of jazz and soul, just sometimes; she replaces the drum snare with the lid of a pot. She sings of her inspirations and tells stories of her day. Born to Ethiopia, she currently resides in San-Francisco and both sonic heritages are reflected in her music. Meeting Meklit is like reconnecting with an old friend. ” I want to sing for them all ” she says as the horns announce the coming week. Its like having a great conversation with a friend who you just met, but feels like you have known forever. She gives TED Talks too! And also has thing super dope thing called the Nile Project. You should check all of them out. Her music has become an unexpected acquaintance in this season of isolation.
In the Nile Project, founded along with Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis, Hadero set out to explore the music of the Nile basin, pulling influences from countries along the river, from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and finally to Egypt.
I love every word that comes out of his mouth, but I understand none of it. He sings primarily in Bassa, and also sings in French. He was born in Cameroon and is a brilliant live performer. Songs like Ngwa, and Mpodol stand out to me from his catalog. I assume he sings of struggle, and liberation. That is what his spirits tells mine. And if I have this all wrong, I am not even sweating it. His music is deeply soulful, and has a mix of the cello, trombone, banjo, and guitar which he plays. His voice is rusty, cool, and soulful. He sings in ballad style that could be easily mistaken as love songs, and maybe they are.
Bassy seems to me like a helpless revolutionary. He is cut from an era where music was more than just entertainment. This is a whole Tuesday vybe!
It is Wednesday, and i havent had any real human interaction, and have been on too many zoom calls to count. I talk to Sona. Jobarteh is the first female Kora virtuoso to come from a prestigious west African Griot family. Breaking away from tradition, she is a modern day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries.
Also a lecturer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Sona is one of the most exciting new talents from the West African Griot tradition! She is the voice that keeps me reassured, during a days where all I wanted was a hug. Her music just tells me not to worry, that the universe is big, and is filled with hugs and everything comes in its time.
Its really not even the whole artist, but this one song. A happy thought. Its pessimistic optimism is as striking as it is true. He sings
“assuming this is the last day of my life
which might mean it is almost the first
i’m struck blind but my blindness is bright
prepare for what’s known here as death
what frightened me apparently
was being born
but i got over that with no hard feelings
What is this life worth, so many have died, so many will still die. Why am I alive, and what am I doing with this life I have. These are definitely questions for the end of the world, and this song, raises them without quarrel. If it happens that i die. It is an honor to have lived. And one way or the other, we will reckon with death in this season. Ours, or those of people we care about. No one is truly safe.
Ali Farka Touré
If there ever was a genius, this is him. I have known of Toure’s music for some years now, but I have never sit with it like I have in this past weeks and months. I imagine this is the music of a wanderer who travels across the desert looking to get lost. His melodies are a meditation on an idea. He takes you through rhythmic notations, journeys far enough, revisits the original idea, but only in variation, so you are always unsure of where the rhythm begins, but the journey is so beautiful you are detached from its origins. It is a sound that combines traditional Malian folklore string tradition with a north American blues feel. His guitar was why guitars were made. I have been doing a lot of wondering lately, discovering new trails and parks, all at a social distance of course. And Ali and his guitar always travel with me.
Spiritual, meditative and contemplative. It feels like I am in the room with my grandfather when I listen to Bonna. The beauty and elegance in his music is easily recognizable although he sings primarily in french. Cameroonian in Origin, he mixes folk styles, griot music with contemporary jazz . Dina lam was released some 10 years ago. I imagine it a negotiation between an angel and a soul for reasons to continue living. He is an incredible live performer on a Thursday i leave his playlist on and listen to recordings of his live concerts.
Lainx Yoruba musicians. This duo makes music that can put you in a trance. Their sound is haunted and ghostly and could exist as entities unto themselves. Their songs describe pain, and broken promise with an elegance and grace that permits you to enter their intimate spaces. Deathless, and no man is bigger enough for my arms are definitely my favorite records from them.
Lady Smith Black Mambazo
“People say he’s crazy, he’s got diamonds on the souls of his shoes ! how else do you cure these walking blues! “ This is the song I dance to when I am feeling down or off pace at work. Lady Smith has such a rich and diverse catalog, I encourage you to get lost in it. They are a South African male choral group and sing in the local vocal styles of isicathamiya and mbube. If I have to tell you who Lady Smith Black Mambazois, can we truly really be friends ? Joseph Shabalala, the groups founder and lead composer recently died, and this made listening to these rhythms even more special. “ Diamonds on the soul of her shoes! ”
You may have heard his father sing it, but his song brings this remix to the present, and then takes it to the future. This whole project is one for the decades. Ziggy Marley teams up with the wailers to remix some of Bob Marley’s most impactful songs. Natural mystic reflects on changing times. In his cool raspy tone Ziggy bellows “ There’s a natural mystic flowing through the air, ……this might be the first chapter, it might as well be the last, many more will have to suffer, many more will have to die, don’t ask me why, things are not the way they supposed to be, I cant tell no lie.”
The lyrics are interspersed with horns and trumpets that announce the arrival of an unkind truth.It sounds like the warning of a prophet. It reminds me of a time where music was more than entertainment. Sometimes you need to just hear the truth. This song has replaced my Stevie Wonder positive vibrations playlist. There is a natural mystic flowing through the air !
I fell in love with Asa at the felabration concert when I saw her make thugs bellow “Bibanke fimi si le” her love ballad. It reminds me of a Stormzy lyric “Nah, man, you’re never too big to rebel I was in the O2 singing my lungs out Rudeboy, you’re never too big for Adele.”
Like Adele, everything Asa makes stands close to her breathtaking Jailer, and scintillating Bibanke, and really all of her self-titled first album, but this is a song worthy enough to stand in its shadow. My Dear could have been perfect at anytime, but it is even more poignant at these times. She longs for lost love, love that could have been. “My dear, where are you my dear, where are you. I hope you get here soon.” The feeling of longing, of craving touch in these social distant Saturdays resonates deeply.
This is the African Song of the year. Master KG is a South African musician and record producer. Born in Limpopo, South Africa, but in this infectious House record, he claims Jerusalem as his home. He is only a temporary resident on earth. After several hours of road work, I spend another 10 minutes dancing in front of my house to help me power down, and I always end with this song. Look at the comments in the link for the full translation. Some of his fans have been so gracious to translate. What does outside matter for, after all, this earth is our temporary home.
On Sunday afternoons, after coming back from a long run, beaming with joy, I put on my Sunny Bobo and break out in dance! The Ogene clanks, the Udu bumps, and the flute sings, and the rythms take my spirit home. In these moments I remember, that despite the isolation, despite the distance, I am never alone, and never disconnected. Because what connects us is not space what keeps us separated can never be space.
It is always blood, and memory that connects us to the people we love. It is memory and shared experiences that cause communities. When you experience a life tragedy together or go through times or hardships, it can bring people close. So maybe this whole experience brings the world closer ?
I’d love to host a dance party with all the humans on earth, dancing Old skool won’t that be something.