Regular readers will no doubt have noticed the stark gap in post frequency these past months. Put simply, the vote to leave the EU coupled with a need to finish arranging a job lot of music for my sister’s wedding increased my stress levels exponentially and, frankly, I thought about throwing the whole Appraisal away. Follow any minor level artist or writer and you will no doubt come across a post or two about the struggle in creating, the struggle in being heard and appreciated. It is draining and demeaning and I’d had enough. The dust won’t settle on all this for a long time yet, but to give up now would only damage myself. This year won’t beat me so easily. Through it all my Spotify Discover Playlist has been a consistent rock; within this rock the occasional gem; of those gems there have been one or two flawless stones of quality able to drag me out of my funk, able to raise a comment. Of those: Rusangano Family – Let the Dead Bury the Dead.
When I was younger I used to have an incredibly snobbish attitude to lyrics; they were always secondary after melodies and chords. It’s probably why I let Limp Bizkit fuel my adolescence for so long. Through this I accidentally developed a numbness towards rappers as their art was built into the rhymes and rhythms in a way that I couldn’t comprehend. Unfortunately, unless it had a stellar backing track I just wouldn’t bother. What wasted years those were. I have so much to learn and so much to hear. But Let the Dead Bury the Dead is an album I am utterly grateful to Spotify for adding to my education. The flat-out poetry held within these incredible pockets of groove puts the aggression and null-sum words of my previous experience to shame. These are MCs with a life experience and pools of imagery to draw upon that dwarfs anything I could ever know. ‘Heathrow‘ deals forcefully, elegantly but incisively with racial profiling and the “predicament of the new slaves”; a kicker at the end asking us to “let it sink”. Here too can we see a masterful use of the album format as the intense climax we just experienced flows into the soothing and aptly named instrumental ‘We All Need A Break Sometimes‘; time slows down and I can contemplate the grenade just lobbed.
The nigh on perfect interplay between the mynameisjOhn’s exceptional beats and MuRli and God Knows’ wordplay is a running theme throughout this album. ‘Blabber Mouth‘ detailing the familiar familial disappointment in choosing an artistic path when they could have been “the Irish Obama”; documented over a classic, brassy soul groove. The stark text on lost cultural connections in ‘Losing My French‘ brought into sharp relief when laid on it’s languid piano ostinato; “when a home becomes just a property”, a heartbreaking concept. Of all these, ‘Isn’t Dinner Nice‘ stands tall amongst giants. The text, greatly enhanced by Denise Chaila’s delivery, should be compulsive listening, detailing as it does the experience of being a woman and the contempt shown by men and boys. I can’t even put it into words the shame, sadness and anger this subject raises in me; the phrase “boys will be boys” delivered with such nuanced defeat that I break. All this contrasted with a beautiful romantic groove; an echo chamber of strings magnifying the poem’s power. “Sure, he’s only a man”.
This album is fertile. Living. It is the product of cultures not colliding but intertwining. Experience and talent combined by location and fed by circumstance. There were never any rules at the beginning, something Rusangano Family instinctively know and something they use to highlight social issues we’d otherwise ignore. It’s almost subtle the way subjects are presented, ideas danced around before you realise that they’ve actually been fencing you in; forcing you to confront the disquieting truths. Simply incredible.
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Click to listen on Soundcloud here.