The black music tradition is, perhaps, America’s greatest cultural signifier. While early white composers were attempting to recreate the classical idioms of Europe, the descendants of slaves were making music unique to a developing nation. Jazz became the people’s medium of expression as Duke Ellington conducted this new world’s symphony.
In creating their own distinct artistic and social identity, African-Americans, too, greatly influenced the overarching American society. These vignettes of music, art, and literature from this adopted country, however, came from the amalgamation of a diverse African continent. As we appreciate the works of jazz, blues, and hip-hop, it is important to recognize that these authentically American sounds are rooted in a lineage birthed out of the African diaspora.
This understanding of cultural diffusion is an oft-forgotten paradigm in the story of America. Fela Soul is the perfect vehicle for this lesson in musical history.
Brought together under the imaginative eye of Gummy Soul’s Amerigo Gazaway, Fela Soul combines the works of Fela Kuti and De La Soul, encapsulating both ends of an expansive musical tradition. This dynamic is best heard on “Breakadawn,” a song whose blaring horns and infectious African rhythms showcase the lyrical excellence of De La Soul in an entirely new light.
Initially, we are presented with an understated string arrangement only to be introduced to a chorus of horns, courtesy of Kuti’s 1975 classic “Water No Get Enemy.” As the song takes shape, De La Soul does exactly what De La Soul has always done—spit bars upon bars.
The ease with which Gazaway melds these sounds speaks to not only his own talents but the interconnected relationship of two sets of artists that seem to stand so far apart. And that may be Gazaway’s greatest achievement. Without hesistation, I can call this great music. But in a much greater sense, it serves as an anthropological study of African music over time. Fela Soul is a seamlessly fluid project, threaded with the binds of times.
Amerigo Gazaway latest adventure is as sonically appealing as it is historically sound.
You can find Fela Soul in its entirety here.