Our kids are missing out on alot these days.
When wee-me was running around on little feet with an afro of curls glowing in the sun, good music was everywhere. You didn't have to dig in any crates for it. You could turn on the radio and hear it, step into just about any club to find a band delivering it, or enjoy it on wax. The world in many ways was a different place then, safer, softer, and though not without its problems (which have certainly led to the dilemmas we're contending with today) there was still a strong conscience present.
I'm of the thinkers who believe the decay we're seeing in society is directly related to the artless junk entertainment-fueled thoughts the masses have allowed or rather have had rammed into their minds from nearly all sides.
So when I recieved The Connection Vol. 1 for review, though there was some delay in my being able to deliver a worthy article during a time of transition and housemoving, I couldn't help but remember my childhood, and appreciate that there are plenty of 70's sun-kissed afrocrown bearing kids who remember life before corporate-agenda music took brainwashing to the next level. What R2 records has extended in 'The Connection Vol.1' is pretty much a masterpiece of yesterday and underground today coming together cross-culturally, superhero-like with etheric cape and a mission to help redirect the conceptual framework in the music currently offered up to the masses.
From the beginning of the cd nostalgia transported a good part of my consciousness to the local Jazz Fests of old, the fuzzy black faux-hair blanket my parents lugged around to every show or outing we attended, the igloo cooler full of ginger ale and fizzy lemon-lime mock drinks, as well as the 'single-serving' friends I'd run into from year to year by the swingset. I was taken back to the space in time where we'd take in elongated jazz symphonies (with occasional vocal offerings) long after the sun dipped below the horizon.
Perfect for dancing barefoot in the grass, The Connection Vol.1 's festive intro begins with Aiff's 'Let it roll'. Its communal spirit and feverish percussion demand movement, with a horn section adding a kind of regal vibration of welcome and importance. It registers as an ideal door into classical world music with lounge appeal, followed by downtempo psychedelia and mellow breakbeat fathered by dusty afrobeat tracks that display the deep funk spirit possibilities in the Afrobeat genre.
Sultry blends of Breakbeat, Dub, R&B elements and traditional sounds push forward on the cd, and create a perfect introduction to Worldmusic for youth whose brains have unfortunately been exposed to music lacking emotional and passionate investment for the most part.
Some tracks bring us closer to the Motherland through music and song theme.
Raw Artistic Soul feat. Wunmi does just this by lifting the tempo in honor of Oya, Yoruban Orisha (elemental power) of the sea. In its depths, salt, sand and the sway of colorful skirts await the mind's eye of the listener, while other tracks blend the best parts of the club scene, synthesizing world music into a more-hyper version of itself.
'Sound is everything' (Rich Medina Mix) changes the vibe a bit with a watery electronica that makes for a fun, sharply whispered adventurous and flirty track.
Natural rhythms and instrumentation find their place on the sonic journey as well.
The Daktari's track is a sinewy groove with self-assured horns, the tweak of the guitar and the smooth roll of the hand drum, with a fierce flute breaking in towards the middle of the track, while 'Revolution Poem' a synth-tinged Afrobeat gem with house elements and a fanning out of horns standing in for instrumental hooks, manages to be upbeat and lounge-worthy in the same spin. ' I want to dream about revolution. I want to live revolution,' calls the Motherland Diaspora to rise.
Experimentation on this album is fun, cross-cultural, surprising and of-a-sudden in its introduction.
Salsa Scratch, for example, true to its name is a scratch-heavy melding of Salsa, and Hiphop. Horns play a familiar melody accompanying the staccato scratch sequences, with tranquil hand-drumming adding a rooted element. Very energetic and celebratory, its experimental nature unites two closely rooted but distinct forms of expression enthusiastically.
Big Bang's slinky jazz-heavy excursion introduces scatting harmonies and blunt afrobeats framed with the lead singer's rouge-red press and curled vocals warning ' I'm back for you' in one breath, before beckoning 'Dance with me', in the next. A feverish flute fills the song's middle with a flurry of energy for twirling skirts.
Setenta's Funky Tumbaa's traditional latin rhythm changes, drum claps, and synthesized reinterpretation of masculine vocals meld into an interesting take on the immortal Michael Jackson's 'Don't stop' hook towards the song's end, while Quantic Soul Orchestra Feat Noelle Scaggs bring a feel reminiscent of the Big Fat Heavies with a softly sung percussion-dominant track touched with a bit of guitar twang in the acidic jazz mix.
The cd morphs from fast, to slow, to medium slow grooves throughout the cross-cultural excursion, blending genres deliciously. It's a disc you can put on mid-morning and still be enjoying well into the afternoon. Closing it out, memorable tracks like Tequila's Someone to Love open with wah-wah guitar strumming and wind instruments playing in the tradition of the 70's etheric haze with Tom Jones-like vocals. Latin rhythm infuses the song's mid-section which fades out with the wah-wah guitar that ushered it in.
Totin's 'Rumba Cultura' layered in tribal clacks, deeply hollow hand drums and the voices of male elders taking vocal reign in native tongue gives way to the final track 'Ya Nada Me Importa ' by Elenita Ruiz, which registers like the last dance of a music box ballerina, sweetly singing melancholy in latin tongue, amidst the high chiming of xylophones and subdued guitar strumming in the background. Somber in mood but sugared, its ethers close out The Connection Vol.1 with a bittersweet feeling of remembering and a faint but heart-fueled hope, that is completely fitting for most of the children who remember music, and still hold light in heart, however faint it may be, that our melancholy will be relieved and our children will know a world that abstains from bombarding it with frighteningly hollow interpretations of the soul's call to humanity through the arts.
Extremely well-done and recommended for any music collection.