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D Black Messiah……

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It’s all about the voice. The voice and vocal rendition itself becomes the lyric! It’s taken me about fourteen days to really work it out for myself, even though I received some inspiration some days ago from one of the many reviews I read on Facebook about Black Messiah, which was written by one of his fellow artists. I think it was Cleveland Watkiss (but I forget now and it doesn’t really matter). Whoever it was explained that the sometimes fruitless efforts by some to decipher every sound or word that he utters is placing an emphasis on the wrong thing. Some have complained that he needs to demonstrate better diction, but they miss the point completely. I thought that before today, but I really get it now. And I have done that without once feeling the need to pore over the many lyric sheets that are doing the rounds on Facebook and other social media. It’s all about what he is doing with his voice! The polyrythmic and layered soundwaves that the listener experiences aurally through D’s voice become the lyric itself! Trying in vain and failing to always hear the specific words and making instant sense of them is the wrong emphasis to place on the experience!

So with that in mind, just this morning I heard Ain’t That Easy, 1000 Deaths, The Charade and Sugar Daddy in an even different light from the past two weeks…and that was a welcome surprise, even for someone who prides himself on “getting it” from day one. It brought my enjoyment of the album to a whole new level that I did not think possible even two or three days ago! It also allowed me to hear the voice of Kendra Foster even more clearly on The Charade. More clearly than I had listened for it in the preceding weeks…and that is the joy of the musical experience. I for one am glad that a few artists like D are doing this to us, making us work that little bit more and dig that little bit deeper than the rest of the music industry conglomerate would generally like the masses to do.

I once wrote a paper (during completion of a postgraduate degree) on Communication Theory and one of the interesting components of the paper was the relationship between all of the elements that constitute the process of communication from giver to receiver. I wrote about the communication experience that takes place with the use of the talking drum in the African experience. The talking drum being the medium through which the messages are processed and communicated. The different tones and rises and falls of the pitch are the vibrations that hit the ears and soul of the listener and through which meaning is conveyed. In D’s case, on some of his songs, his voice becomes the lyric itself. The celebration of his vocal rendition. Like listening on two different levels…because there are those many songs where you also hear the words themselves that more clearly. It all makes for a richer musically enjoyable experience. I also wrote on someone’s Facebook page only yesterday that Anthony Hamilton and Angie Stone will have to bring their A-game to the next world tour with D, because he harmonises so superbly on practically all of his vocal runs. It is just such a beautiful thing to experience and one that they no doubt enjoy. They’ve already been there and done that with him – and they will simply have to do it again – if they are to measure up to the task at hand.

If the superb interlude ‘Astral Projection’ from Adriana Evans’ current album ‘Walking In The Night’ was a true reflection of astral travel in its purest form, then I guess that would be quite an experience! I have had it on good authority in the past that astral travel is not an experience that is truly beneficial to the spiritual development of man. However, on the basis of the gentle groove that the Soul songstress delivers here, I have to 100% agree with my man Soul Jones when he describes it as…… ‘a soulful piece of vibes-led magic’!

 

ENJOY!

Back in early 2010, I reported some news that came in via Defected Records that futuristic funk, dance and soul music artist and producer, the prolific Osunlade, had re-launched his Yoruba Records with a slew of classic releases old and new, under the new Yoruba Gold moniker. These releases were available via the usual outlets, by way of Defected Records. If you missed them then, here’s your chance to re-acquaint yourself with the super-talented maestro! Investigate!

Born with an unusual name that is eclipsed only by her talent, Yewande (pronounced E-wán-day) has been recognized as one of the most sought after independent artists in the world. When she first burst onto the music scene in 2004, her socially charged brand of Alternative  Soul won over a legion of fans and critics alike. The release of her debut EP “Evolution” (Lotus Records, 2005) quickly led to appearances on MTV, BET and a coveted debut at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Performances with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5 and Sean Paul followed soon after as she earned countless international songwriting awards, headlined concerts from the college circuit to Europe and Africa, and walked red carpets with the “who’s who of Hollywood”. But in a business that thrives upon conformity, Yewande began to question whether she would ever fulfill her greatest dream through the music industry — to change the world. And the music simply  stopped.

THE MUSIC

During a nearly 5 year hiatus from the recording industry, not only did Yewande pursue her dream, she ignited a one woman movement across the globe and she’s back to tell us stories of that journey on her highly anticipated recording, “Rebirth” (Phoenix Records/Lotus Records, Summer 2010). Her messages still unapologetically speak truths about issues that many artists shy away from — poverty, war, race, love — and with powerhouse vocals that harken back to the days of Tina Turner and Pat Benatar, she’ll make you a believer! Much like her progressive contemporaries – Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Seal, Kina, Black Eyed Peas, Outkast – Yewande’s music continues to defy genres. “Life is colored with so many emotions — joy, loss, struggle, triumph,” she explains. “My music is simply a reflection of that raw human thing we all share! It’s not about Black emotion, not White emotion, Homosexual or Heterosexual…I want to write music that touches everyone!” One part storyteller, two parts kick ass live music backed by Angie Stone’s band, Soultron, the angst of Rock, a dash of Hip-Hop and a whole lot of Soul, “Rebirth” is a welcomed departure from formula driven artistry that so often trumps innovation. Her bold, new sound reflects the journey of a lioness who’s been patiently waiting to capture her prey. The target is aimed squarely at your heart and based on early response, will undoubtedly land in heavy rotation on your mP3.

THE JOURNEY

The world has come to know Yewande as far more than a singer-songwriter but an award-winning lecturer and passionate humanitarian. While touring the U. S. college circuit, Yewande began to observe an alarming trend among students. After nearly every concert, she was overwhelmed with questions about identity, discrimination, violence and other deeply personal issues they seemed eager to reveal. Why her? “I guess somehow they thought I’d be more empathetic because of the topics I sing about. They just needed someone to tell them things would get better.” In 2005, Yewande responded to this urgent outpouring by launching a series of programs (www.globalinstituteforchange.com) that promote tolerance, leadership and social justice. Today, her programs (“Best Diversity Event”, “Best Solo Artist”, “Top 20 Campus Programs”, “Top 10 Hot New Acts”) have reached over 40,000 students across the globe. And with the upcoming launch of her Change Rocks Youth Ambassadors student activism project and college tour, disciples of the MTV generation are beginning to harness their own power to change the world. When this University of Sheffield (Sheffield, UK) Ethnomusicology grad student isn’t rocking the stage or addressing lecture
halls, her humanitarian organization (www.changerocksfoundation.com) is furthering the dreams of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. While headlining the Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi, Africa in 2006, Yewande began teaching AIDS orphans in the local villages where she witnessed miraculous transformations using music to teach AIDS prevention and sustainable skills. Today, participants from Africa to the Americas are beating the odds one song at a time. Recognized as an honorary United States Cultural Ambassador for her commitment to music and social change, listeners may wonder what inspires this artist turned lecturer and activist. Is it her love for music or simply the destiny of a little girl with a dream? A legion of fans already know that it is likely Yewande’s Yoruba birth name, which means “reincarnation of mother”, that foretold her story long before this journey even began. They’re just glad she’s back to give them what they’ve been waiting to hear.

Taking a brief musical trip down memory lane, “Love Sessions” is the 6-track Extended Player which was released to critical acclaim in 2005 by the gifted singer/songwriter Mr KUKU, on his own Ijebu-Soul Experience label imprint. The EP kicks off with the folksy acoustic guitar-led ‘Love’. The soft ballad ‘Sunrise in Bed’ follows and carries forward the love theme nicely and seamlessly. By the end of this song – and if I didn’t know any better – I would have assumed that KUKU was the twin brother of a very talented vocalist called Chris Ballin of Incognito fame – such is the similarity of their voices.

The other similarity worthy of mention is the same feel-good or ‘healing’ qualities both voices possess. In my opinion, music is only fully worth its place when it gives something to the listener, be it within the lyrics, the melody or the feel-good factor inherent in every listen. In his case, KUKU fulfills all of these requirements and then some.

With songs like ‘It’s Alright To Sing So Blue’ and ‘Call It Whatever’, the entire EP evokes images of peaceful and relaxing moments spent in the company of a loved one, with visions of endless possibilities in the expression of love. It is at times reminiscent of sun-bathed beaches and chilled out moments and you can almost hear the sounds of the water hitting the shore and bathing in its healing peacefulness.

The entire project flows in that nice effortless way that’s easy on the listener and yet holds his attention. In my opinion, the EP served as a fine percussor to the subsequent LP “Unexpected Pleasures”. So look out for it via iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon and other usual outlets – as well as KUKU’s own Kuku Live website.

Mr KUKU is a tribal leader, the Balogun Dodondawa of Ijebu-Ode in Yorubaland. In the words of Vusi Mahlasela, ‘Kuku is an artist with a lot of insight and passion! Anyone listening to his music cannot escape a true blessing and the joy of being filled with absolutely positive messages through word, sound…music!’. His subsequent album was entitled “Soldier of Peace (Balogun Irorun)” and very soon followed on the heels of “Love Sessions”.

Now, watch this space for further musings on the organic sound that is the bedrock of this talented musician…

Hello good people, I’m going to have to throw away my objective reviewer’s hat for the next half hour or so, as I once again bask in the soulful glow of this wonderful album that was released back in 2005 – and you’re going to have to forgive me for doing so! I’m going to allow myself the luxury of waxing lyrical like never before, first because I love this project for all the right reasons and second because the music is that good and deserves glowing praise.

Metropolis! Metropolis! Metropolis! What a beautiful album!

The brainchild and debut release of super-producer Dee Majek, former CEO of Mapp Records USA and a good personal friend of yours truly, “The Voyage” is exactly what is says – a true voyage back to the good old days of quality soul and R&B music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but with a very contemporary twist. It’s the album you would have expected Eric Benet to release as a follow-up to “A Day In The Life”. It is choc-full of grooves, dance-floor jams, beautiful mid-tempo burners, without a single filler track in sight, out of the 19 or so tracks that make up the album. Unlike a lot of sets that tend to fold after about 6 or 7 songs, the very high quality of the music is maintained throughout. A rare feat these days on the R&B music scene!

The timing of release of such a good album could not have been better for the group at the time, as Metropolis could have stepped into a large vacuum created by the absence of quality male soul “groups”, except for a few exceptions like Mint Condition, Boyz II Men and perhaps Jermaine Dupri protégés, Jagged Edge. There are so many tracks to choose from, and selecting a personal favourite becomes a nigh-on impossible task. But if my hand was twisted, I’d have to list ‘Soul Train’, ‘Lovin’ You’, ‘Drunk Love’, ‘Found You’ and the list goes on. The pace is slowed down a tad towards the end, as the album closes off nicely with the Marvin-influenced ‘Time Of Your Life’, the chilled ballad ‘Watching You’ and the 80’s sounding ‘Be My Girl’. Without question, one of the classic forgotten R&B albums of the year 2005.

Now, if this album has no pride of place in your collection so far, do yourself a favour and hunt it down!

News just in, courtesy of Chris Rizik at SoulTracks —

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Hey SoulTrackers! It’s the day you’ve been waiting for. It’s time for you to choose this year’s SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Awards winners!Between now and November 2, SoulTrackers will be voting for this year’s winners using email ballots like this one. If you have friends who are not on our email list, they can sign up at the top left hand corner of any page athttp://www.soultracks.com and they will receive a ballot by email within 48 hours. Only one ballot is allowed per email address.

You can check out all the nominated artists before voting by visiting http://www.soultracks.com/2014-awards-finalists

This year’s SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Awards will be broadcast on Monday, December 8th, hosted again by the team of Jodine Dorce and Nina Morena. And we’ll have a network of stations that will be co-broadcasting it, so you’ll have plenty of ways to hear all the action! More information on that to come.

So with all that out of the way…are your ready to vote? Just click below to go to your personal ballot.

V o t e N o w!