Editor In Chief, Augusta Senenssie, sheds light on a topic close to hear heart: music. In this week’s Culture piece, she shares 5 of her favourite artists who each have powerful messages to share…
So, I love music. More importantly, I love ‘music that makes me think’ and feel and understand things about the world that I shouldn’t; because life and time just makes it impossible to just sit down and think. I love songs that move me to tears and give me perspective. I could be in a crowded room, and still feel content sitting in the corner with a good book and my trusty headphones.
The resonance alone music can have with a sea of people is bizarre- but music with a message is something powerful. I’m not impartial to some cringey old pop tunes, or afraid to ‘get down’ to some R&B classics, but my first love.. My true love, is some of the music I’ll share with you below.
Girl band with a twist
Cliché I’m sure: Warpaint. They’re like this groovy feminist pop punk band that makes you: just want to cut your hair, ride a bicycle, and yaknoe stick to the man! (not a sexist jibe, wider references to the metaphorical man… institutions, social constructs, you know the light things of this world…) They are yet to produce an album that I loathe.
They make my life. They’re awesome. I could gush about how great and profound their music is and just leave it at that. But that would not only be a great disservice to you- it would be a disservice to them. So why don’t I just show you?
2. Repetition in band names are key.
Everything Everything. I first heard them aged 13, when I watched their Glastonbury Treehouse, thinking “gosh, they’re great”. Last summer, I got the chance to watch them perform live… in a circus tent… at a music festival… dressed as a lost child…. in Edenbridge. (Story for another time).
They’re lyrics are incoherent, and quite frankly weird (because “it’s alright to feel like a fat child, in a push chair old enough to run“. You know? I don’t either), but the inspiration behind their words and the motivations behind their albums is so incredibly profound, you cannot help but feel unfettered admiration and respect for their music.
Their latest album, ‘Get to Heaven’ is perhaps the most profound political statement that I’ve had the pleasure to grace my ears. True, their political perspectives may differ from my own, but gosh, aren’t their songs great?
3. Taking it continental
Asa. She’s a Nigerian Folk, soul, jazz queen. The first time I heard her music was during my first and only visit to Sierra Leone. I remember coasting down the beach, with the windows of the jeep rolled down listening to her ace words about life. Granted, I didn’t understand some of her songs, but the ones I did touched deep.
Her first album talked about some troubling cultural practices scourging African society- ‘Fire on the Mountain’ attests to as much… but some of her new music “Dreamer Girl”, “Preacher Man” talk about the hopes and dreams of a new and better life. Dreams that, irrespective of the economic proficiency of your home state or gender, resonates with us all.
Her stories about the challenges of existence, and her song “Jailer” seems to be some great play on the Platonic Allegory of the Caves, which as a former A Level Philosophy buff is quite literally music to my ears..
4. Baaba Maal
Malian and Sengalese music is so great, again, not because you really understand what they’re saying… but because of their unique choice of music and instrumentals. It’s strange, and even though this is likely to sound like the most pretentious spiel you’ve heard in your entire life, I cannot help but imagine that the majority of Baaba’s songs are just a desperate cry to get out and explore the world.
“Yero Mama” (my personal favourite), just makes me want to sieze the day, and explore, search and develop my mind and self… all from the comfort of a cool sub-Saharan fleet market or village party. I think you should all give his music a listen, if for no reason other than to hear a different style of music.
It’s time to stop being so insular and to start realising that there’s a real world out there!! Maal’s music first got my attention following recommendations from Giselle Storm Hyam, in her interesting article about cultural appropriation. It made me wonder if: I’m closing myself off to an entire genre of music simply because I’m fearful that others might misconstrue my appreciation for cultural insensitivity?
It was an interesting thought and made me remember a dumbfounding Malian singer who performed on the fields of Glastonbury a few years ago… I couldn’t understand what she said, but her music, her dress and her command of her music was enough for me to turn up my speakers and call my entire family into the living room to listen. Yes, I’m not Malian, and try as I might I will never understand or belong to her culture. So did my listening to her music make me culturally insensitive?
I didn’t think so. Giselle makes a great point, although she does lose me at the end of her piece. Understanding and appreciating music from different cultures doesn’t meant that you’re appropriating it, it simply embodies what true multiculturalism. So whilst I’m still trying to get to grasp with what some of what Baaba is saying, I’m going to keep on listening.
5. Just a groovy Latin band
Buena Vista Social Club
Again, my Spanish is a little rusty (virtually non-existent) so I’m sure it won’t come as much of a shock to you that I once again only understand the odd phrase, but it’s just brilliant! I’ve jumped up (in the comfort of my bedroom) and attempted atrocious salsa moves to the smooth styles of their music…A LOT.
I think it just makes me super excited for the exciting adventure my best friend and I will be embarking on, in the not-so-distant-future. What’s so brilliant about this band is the awesome intermingling their music has with Cuba’s Afro-Cuban musical history. I’m pretty sure they don’t perform anymore and I love that a band with a cumulative age of over 300, still gets me moving my feet!
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t cite an entire album, but the progression in tracks and quality is the kind of thing, that I’d encourage you to have playing in the background whilst you cook your dinner…or reading a book: It’s that good. You’re welcome.
6. I’m sorry, but it would be mad of me NOT to include the beautiful stylings of Solange
Yes, her new album is undoubtedly her best work to date, but I’ve love her as far back as ‘Losing you’, and marvelled watching her set at Glastonbury when her waist-length braids swayed enthusiastically as she sang. (Yes, I was a raving Glasto fan). She’s just out of this world.
In the first week of Freshers it’s all I played in my flat. I encouraged a flat mate to give her listen, I danced to and from my Lectures singing her songs outloud, it was something I couldn’t and cannot get enough of.
I feel as though ‘A seat at the table’ would not have touched me so deeply if I had been at this stage of my life. A first year, living in the Capital, studying at a renowned institution. Suddenly aware of my own mortality and truly trying to figuring out who I am.
The juxtapositioning of the uncomfortable issues tackled in, ‘Don’t touch my hair’, ‘FUBU’ with the beautiful imagery in the likes of ‘Crane in the Sky’ and ‘Rise’ is so refreshing that anyone… irrespective of racial identity or cultural norms…. can come to appreciate her music. Her album’s brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. I’d love to do a thorough anthropologic analysis of the central themes tackled in her album, but I honestly feel as though I wouldn’t do it justice. So I’m just going to point you in this direction…
In short, she’s brilliant and is the perfect round off to my music recommendations!
The truth of it all
So I know that my suggestions may make me seem like I’m a high brow, deeply pretentious sod who takes away the beautiful escapism music often provides. Unfortunately, I’m not sorry. The fact that the music I listen to has the ability to make me feel a torrent of emotions is one of the reasons I love it so much.
If anything, I hope that the artists above make it clear that for the most part, music with a message isn’t the worst kind of music you can listen to.