‘Now and again an album comes out of nowhere that hits you straight between the ears.’ The Times.
Soothsayers are a London-based collective that reach far beyond the restrictive clichés of ‘World Music.’ Blending the pulsating rhythms of Afrobeat with the sonic adventurousness of dub reggae and urban jazz, Soothsayers shook up the jaded music scene with their acclaimed debut album, Lost City. They followed this with Tangled Roots, an exceptional release that defies standard classifications: the West African roots music that fired Fela Kuti’s rebellion is filtered through the deeply seductive dub experimentation of Lee Perry, King Tubby and Augustus Pablo, while funk, hip hop and other contemporary elements yield a complex sound firmly lodged in London’s broader musical experience.
Soothsayers is a band brought together by unusual coincidences and, when they hear the music or see a live performance, many say destiny. The main writers and conceptual leaders of Soothsayers, Red Earth Records and the wider Red Earth Collective are Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft. The producers met in the late 1990s while working together as a horn section for reggae producer, Mad Professor. They realised they had similar musical passions and an affinity for each other's playing. They decided to work together and call themselves Soothsayers, a name which suggests something of the deep and mysitical power they felt for the music they began to study and create. A chance meeting with the Nigerian elder and artist, musician, master drummer and singer, Adesose Wallace, at a benefit gig for the late Nigerian writer Ken Sarowiwa inspired further collaboration and songwriting.
The Fela protege, Idris, grew up in Sierra Leone and Nigeria where his mother ran the old Afro Spot nightclub in downtown Lagos. In his early days he toured extensively across West Africa with Hugh Masakela and was a regular at Fela's shrine compound. Soothsayers then found themselves bonding with Togolese bass player, Kodjovi Kush. The son of a diplomat and speaker of 10 languages, he was schooled in Israel but has settled in London. Kush, as he is known to his friends, is a long time devotee to Rastafari. Idris' sister, the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Jazz keyboardist Zoe Rahman, was incorporated into the expanding sound as well as master drummer Patrick Illingworth, whose credits include work with the Cinematic Orchestra, singer-songwriter Sia and groundbreaking dance music act 808 State. The line up was completed by guitarists Phil Dawson, who has worked with many international African stars like Tony Allen and Natasha Atlas, and Derek Johnson whose Dub Asante band back reggae vocalists Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Michael Rose among others.
The album "The Time Is Now" is a collection of Soothsayers afrobeat songs. It features new material as well as tracks from their first two albums "Lost City" and " Tangled Roots". As well as the regular band you will hear an array of guest vocalists: the Nigerian "Blu Funk" vocalist and guitarist Keziah Jones features on the funky meltdown "Freedom". The sublime "Love and Money" presents the beautiful vocals of 'Chimurenga soul' princess Netsayi and Griot Guinean Kora player and singer Mosi Condi floats over the hypnotically dubbed out "We Must Return". Also listen out for the protest-driven vocals of Ghanaian queen, Nana Y Mensah on "One More Reason". "Follow Your Path" features twice on the album, in its original studio form and as a funky driving remix by the "419"ers.
The opening track "Blinded Souls" is a rolling afrobeat anthem that chants against consumer culture. The free blowing and driving "Remember Fela" uses Fela Kuti's "Africa" as its foundation and shows off great soloing by Idris and Zoe Rahman (sax and keyboards). "Slow Down " is a funky afrobeat groove with a big chorus that warns us about the pace of modern living. Urban poet HKB Finn weaves his lyrics into the breakdown section and builds the track into an excitng climax. "Benin City Dub" is a driving 12/8 interlude with jazz and afrodub inflections and "OrinOjishe" is another Adesose vocal this time in the Yoruba language and with a more reflective vibe. Ade can be found in a fiery mood on "Do You Want to Know" where he urges the people of the world to wake up to the injustice surrounding them, and on "In the Beginning" he once again uses a mixture of Yoruba and English in a cry for racial equality .
> The bonus track on the album is a dub remix of "Blinded Souls" by iconic UK reggae producer Mad Professor. This track is pure, thumping afro-dub and represents Soothsayers' strong link with the world of dub and reggae. Many of the other tracks are mixed by UK dub producer Manasseh and Soothsayers' next album will intensify these links further, presenting fresh collaborations with legendary reggae vocalists Johnny Clarke, Michael Prophet, Linval Thompson and Max Romeo.
> The album is also augmented by a host of other musicians who are part of the Red Earth Collective. These include Fench bass player and producer Momo Haffsi, session drummer Frank Tontoh, veteran South African guitarist Lucky Ranku, percussionist Satin Singh, The Egg founder / keyboardist Ned Scott and Ghanaian keyboard star Kwame Yeboah.
> Praise for Tangled Roots: ‘A heady sonic brew, crafted in the best jazz tradition by drawing respectfully from disparate elements…the album is full of irresistibly funky grooves, intricate percussion, virtuoso vocals, elaborate guitar lines and swinging horns, with meaningful lyrics and uncommon vocal arrangements raising the overall musical standard one level higher.’ Mojo (four stars) ‘Thrilling harmonies…seriously infectious dance floor grooves…goose bump inducing vocals.’ The Guardian ‘An impressive mosaic of Afrobeat, dub and funky fusion…dynamic volleys of call and response…cascading horn riffs and melodies.’ Echoes ‘Tangled Roots shows how exciting and diverse things get when you hold a mirror up to London’s musical melting pot.’ Jazzwise (four stars) ‘The eclectic blend works perfectly with the sound being organic and unique. It reflects the diverse cultural influences in modern urban Britain and you can imagine the music fitting in on dance floors in South London, Kingston, Lagos or Accra. Infectious, funky and great fun!’ BBC Radio 3 ‘African rhythms filtered through the prism of dub…accomplished musicianship…highly compelling.’ XLR8R ‘The whole disc constitutes a major step forward for one of the hardest working and most creative groups on the scene.’
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