featured REVIEW

Asheru Sleepless In Soweto Guerilla Arts Ink • 2013

Who? Asheru, formerly of Unspoken Heard.
What? An album about African identity.
Why check it? Theeeese are African rhythms.

Asheru describes his first hip-hop manifesto in years as 'A love letter to South Africa'. In fact you can leave out the prefix 'South'. Because it's really a love letter to Africa. 'Sleepless In Soweto' is a pan-African project: a dedication to African culture and how it's lived all over the world. On a wider scale, the DC lyricist is known for the Boondocks theme tune 'Judo Flip'. Among rap aficionados, Gabriel Benn is known from Unspoken Heard, his collaboration with Blue Black. In the beginning of the century, the duo scored a few underground hits through 7Heads Ent.

For years now, Asheru has been travelling between the land of Obama and Mandela. With 'segregation' and 'apartheid' still fresh in mind, the teacher and youth activist educates and condemns. Even though a Black man resides in the White House ('You can't be a black president and the black leader or liberator of the people. The two cannot co-exist.'), even though apartheid has been abolished for over twenty years, black people are still cornered. The release date of the record, Zulu Nation's 40th anniversary, isn't a coincident. The album calls for unity. Besides social issues, Asheru touches on ecological problems. That the Philipinnes are under water, isn't a coincident either. In 'Last Days', he's doomy about the planet's future.

Musically, 'Sleepless In Soweto' is a colourful melange. It has its roots in African rhythms (think Plunky & Oneness of JuJu, think Fela Kuti), old school breaks, and soul. 'Funky DC' is warm, exotic jazz-funk, that could've been arranged by Roy Ayers. 'Simphiwe's Theme' has agitating break drum rolls, while Raheem Devaugh puts a slice of soul in 'Gauteng', a dedication to Johannesburg.

Vocally, Asheru is able to assimilate with every tune and rhythm. With an eloquent flow, clear voice, and steady cadence. As a pan-African project, the album holds features by African-born artists Pantsula HHP ('We don't want a better life, we demand it'), and Wayna Wondwossen, a.o. It's obvious: theeeese are African rhythms.

POSTED ON 11|27|2013 by cpf

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