Sons of Kemet: Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do

review kemet x1 cong

Winners of the MOBO best jazz award for their debut Burn, Sons of Kemet play jazz that’s not got much to do with the clichéd image of earnest men playing long trumpet solos in a dingy clubs. Possibly apart from the dingy clubs bit.
For a start, much of the bass and motion in the songs comes from the tuba, the drums (there are two drummers) being used as percussion. The band they most reminded us of was Pigbag, and its dance-orientated tribal jazz. This is an album that won’t meet any of your preconceived ideas but is packed full of danceable grooves.
Musically the tuba and the drums set the tone. The tuba is there at the bottom, delivering a serious bass line and often being the rhythm section. The percussion gives flavour, with a strong African feel, the bass rhythm apparently based on a traditional Barbadian style called tuk; there’s a New Orleans vibe in places, though nothing a man with an umbrella could lead down Bourbon.
The band’s Shabaka Hutchings describes the album as “a meditation on the Caribbean diaspora in Britain” and inspirations for songs include Barbadian author George Lamming’s 1953 novel about post-colonial identity; Octavia Butler, an award-winning African-American sci-fi writer; Samir Awad, a Palestinian teen killed by Israeli forces as he fled their gunfire in 2013 and the band’s Caribbean roots.
There are no lyrics, of course, so without notes you’d know none of this, and the album title, a mix of the serious (“lest we forget”) and the relaxed suggest the band want you to take on the message but also enjoy yourself.
The album is full of restless and full of energy; we’re not sure you could sit and relax to it but it would keep you awake in the car, and is probably excellent live. Out on Naim (naimcd217).

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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