Yes Yes Sunday Jammers. How are you? Hope you are managing to stay upright in this permanent state of upside down.
So, the unearthing continues into 2020 and full disclosure some of it has weighed in hard this week, it’s been almost impossible to escape to some unseen corner and nestle into music. There are times when looking straight into the heart of the blaze is the only option left and my gaze is fixed firmly on one of the countries that make up my origin soil; Nigeria. For anyone who might not be aware, Nigerian citizens have been taking to the streets to protest against police brutality. Initially the protests - back in 2017 - called for an to the end of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was set up to tackle armed robbery but the unit has gone on to abuse its power with accusations of kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful detentions and arrests, extortion to name a few. It has resulted in mass protests and the horrific scenes on the 20th of October where protestors in Lagos were shot, sending shockwaves around the country. The protests are a symptom of the continuing anger and disillusionment Nigerians, in particular young Nigerians, feel with the Political and Elite classes. Another historical moment of reckoning.
So, this week I am taking a detour, taking a moment to stand with Nigeria. In as much as I can from my comfortable perch across the seas, but to any Naijas who might come across this; I see you, salute your bravery and I dedicate this to you. ‘Heartbeat’ by Nneka from her debut album No Longer At Ease. Everything about it feels right for this exact moment. It echoes the rage and disconnection felt by the artist and her fellow citizens; then and now.
This track was later remixed by Chase and Status, I struggle with this version – not because it’s bad, their version has some merit, but it’s always felt disconnected from the purpose of the original, which stood as a direct criticism of the brutality and the dismissal of the Nigerian government towards its citizens. The remix feels like an exercise in electronica and bass stripping the track of its heart. Nneka’s original veers between love, dismay, anger, sorrow and a desire to shout directly at those in power. Her voice is at once a rebel yell but the rasp in her tone gives it a vulnerability that articulates the sense of suffering and fatigue that comes with going unheard. The bass heavy Afrobeat beat, drum n bass inspired rhythm faces off against the piano’s melody pushing along the intensity leading into the repetition of blood is barely controlled chaos. It speaks to the fury and desperation for change. It’s beautiful, elegant and powerful.