[Blackstudies-l] Four Artists Preserving Santería, Kumina & Yoruba Religion Through Their Music
lima at geneseo.edu
Sun Mar 11 07:28:07 EDT 2018
lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Hakeem Adam for Okay Africa. Acts
like Ibeyi, Daymé Arocena, Zara McFarlane and Sibusile Xaba are creating
spaces for spirituality and religion in their songs. Contemporary African
music does a great job at mirroring the vibrant cult"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> 4 Artists Preserving
Santería, Kumina & Yoruba Religion Through Their Music
[image: Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 8.58.40 PM]
A report by Hakeem Adam for *Okay Africa*
Acts like *Ibeyi, Daymé Arocena, Zara McFarlane* and *Sibusile Xaba* are
creating spaces for spirituality and religion in their songs.
Contemporary African music does a great job at mirroring the vibrant
culture that inspires it. A cross section of its genres will mirror the
dominant themes in the lives of Africans, from the infectious dance rhythms
of gqom and afrobeats fertilizing the joy in celebration to the soulful
meditation of desert rock or Ethio-jazz for pensive days. One aspect of
current African music that's quite apparent but often minimized is the
space it has created for spirituality and religion.
Over the past few years, artists such as *Ibeyi, Daymé Arocena, Sibusile
Xaba, Zara McFarlane* and many others have etched a major conduit for the
flow or spiritual energy through contemporary and popular music. They
define their work by various religious and spiritual practices such as
Yoruba, Kumina and Santeria. Music is one of the few ways through which you
learn about indigenous African traditions as the intricacies of these
doctrines are largely overshadowed and eroded by the rapid growth of Islam
and Christianity. But what are the ways in which these musicians are
instrumentalizing their spirituality and how is it preserving the culture?
British-Jamaican jazz and soul singer Zara McFarlane
<https://zara-mcfarlane.bandcamp.com/> exhibits a unique use of the
inherent spirituality of African music by using the tradition for Kumina to
map her heritage from Congo to the Caribbean to the Britain. On her album
*Arise* <https://zara-mcfarlane.bandcamp.com/album/arise>, released last
year, she used the tradition of song and dance that is Kumina as a star
system on which to trace her narrative and embodied experiences. Kumina,
which originated in the Congo and is still practiced there, was
transplanted by the enslaved to the Caribbean islands and finally to Europe.
The listener follows Zara Macfarlane as she fuses jazz, blues and soul
sounds with Kumina as a base. She mimics the various mutations that
transformed hollow drums and drum chants, finally manifested as a soulful
sound in modern music. In a search for her heritage, the album also becomes
a metaphor of the mutations the enslaved had to go through as they were
transplanted from one place to another, against their will.
Sibusile Xaba <http://sibusilexaba.com/newsite/>, South African vocalist
and guitarist also taps into a cosmic power to create his music. His edge,
however is that he takes a more personal approach by using his hypnotic
voice and minimal sound to create a dreamscape in which he reflects on the
connectedness of life. On his double disc album released last year. "Open
Letter To Adoniah
<https://sibusilexaba.bandcamp.com/album/open-letter-to-adoniah>" and "
Unlearning <https://sibusilexaba.bandcamp.com/album/unlearning>," listeners
are cajoled to walk along this sacred path of song by following the Zulu
vocals of a man contemplating life. For Sibusile Xaba, his music is a very
personal practice of his spirituality.
For Ibeyi <http://www.ibeyi.fr/>, on their eponymous debut album, paying
homage to the Yoruba pantheon and their heritage was the critical
instrument for their meteoric rise in the alternative pop scene. The young
Afro-Cuban twin sisters used various interpretations of the sonic architect
of Yoruba worship songs and invocation to express their own themes of love,
loss and estrangement. Aside from singing in Yoruba, the duo also uses the
Bata drum in composing, an instrument whose use is steeped in various
Yoruba and Santeria ceremonies. On the serenading, yet haunting cut "River
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=lHRAPIwsS5I>," the pair
seem to visually portray the healing power of Oshun, deity of the river and
fresh water as they eulogize her in the Yoruba phrases nestled at different
spots on the song. By engineering their sonic and visual identities around
these Yoruba deities, Ibeyi draw attention to a transplanted culture that
nourishes their art.
Similarly, Afro-Cuban jazz singer Daymé Arocena
<http://daymearocena.com/en/biography/> also centres the religious aspect
of her heritage in her music. Her Santeria faith is paramount in her art
and apparent in her appearance, as she is always clad in heavenly white
when performing. Unlike Ibeyi, who mainly borrow aesthetics, Dayme Arocena
interpolates the song structures of Santeria worship structures to form the
base for her Afro-Cuban jazz sound. Her songs are layered with various
vocal chants and praises used in the religion, which is a hybrid of Yoruba
and Roman Catholic beliefs. Her sophomore album, *Cubafornia*, begins with
a fervent pray to Eleggua, the Orisha of roads and journey as she aims to
chart a new path with her sonic fusion, as well as reintroduce the world to
the Cuban sound. For Daymé Arocena therefore, the practice of her faith is
the genesis of her creativity
Indeed, these artists are not the first musician to incorporate religious
motifs into popular music. Many R&B; rhythmic patterns and lyrical
structures evolved from gospel music. However, it's critical to highlight
how music is one of the shells protecting these belief systems from
vanishing as modern African society marginalizes their practices in favour
of Islam and Christianity. The symbiotic relationship between artist and
faith means that the artists feed of the rich pool of inspirations these
practices offer to fuel their creatively whilst protecting the culture by
externalising them in song.
Many African societies are inherently musical as they weaponize song and
dance as a tool for lubricating their societies as well as preserving their
narratives. From Ga fishermen matching the rhythm of the seas with their
songs as they pull in the catch to Hausa Griots recounting centuries of
history in song, this organic use of song is pivotal to the way societies
are setup and ran.
It is quite clear that African artists on the continent and in the diaspora
have cleared a sacred grove in popular music for traditional religious
practice and belief systems. They have have found a way to broadcast the
motifs and values in their culture to a worldwide audience by stitching
them in the fabric of popular music.
With artists like Ibeyi introducing their relatively young fan base to the
Yoruba pantheon and artist like Sibusile Xaba encouraging a more
introspective approach to spirituality, the sacred groove carved out in
contemporary music can only grow large as other artists across disciplines
should be inspired to advance their traditions in new forms.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
March 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: https://wp.me/psnTa-zCw
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