It’s probable that a single hand could account for the number of times I’ve left my house for more than an hour or two over the last three or four months. Before that, I’d been spending what seems now to have been the last summer of my life on a research project that took me to various communities across the island.
During that two-month stint, I ruminated (neither for the first nor the last time) on the personal importance of movement. I require, and very urgently, a kind of movement that cannot be achieved by running in place or doing burpees. A kind of movement that extends beyond the limbs.
I had lived away from ‘home’ for almost five years and I’ve since been counting the days until I get to leave again. I’ve been awaiting a future that, like the sun these days, is becoming less and less visible. More relevant, though, I’ve been experiencing a new kind of longing. It’s the kind of longing for a familiar that you probably will never get back.
I do know, however, that I’m not alone in this predicament. And I know that many of us have had to try to come to terms not only with grounding as practice but with giving it a new face. How can we induce new memories despite being greeted by the same four walls morning after morning? How can we make the ground move unscathed?
In recent times, I’ve found solace in a new calibre of comfort: in curating sounds. Sometimes joys last but a moment, but there’s power in pushing moments into momentum. I’ve devoted the time spent listening to music to getting to the root of what I feel as I listen. (And what I see, and what I think, and what I — ). I’ve been seeking propulsive connections.
Sparks flew last Friday when WizKid’s ‘Made In Lagos’ album dropped and I saw a comment on Twitter as someone expressed wishing to listen in temperatures far warmer. And what of sounds as temperature? Perhaps sound triggers longing for relocation, for context, but what if we could make homes of them? What if we could transport ourselves instead?
I recall a daydream incited by a nifty chalkboard map in Starbucks. The map depicted the “coffee belt” that lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (I consulted Google to confirm my memory) and triggered thoughts like there are many things that separate us, but ultimately, we are not that different.
Herein lies a lesson from the beloved coffee geography. Since it’s typical for those of us on this side of the world to read from left to right, I will approach the world map as such, despite knowing there is no true beginning to anything spheroid. I’ll use Mercator’s imperialist representation for familiarity’s sake and with the appropriate amount of salt.
And perhaps I romanticize in thinking of sound as equatorial: 0° latitude faces the sun head-on; it is hot all year round; day and night are of equal length, but the surety of the elements is cause for envy.
1 ecuador’s name is self-sacrificial.
“Candirú” by Ataw Allpa and DJ Nirso. Vibrant and ferocious and about a fish found in the Amazonian River that is feared by many. Ataw Allpa is from Quito and responsible for the heated rhythms carrying Brazilian vocals through the tune that hurl their origins at your core. There is no denying what they want.
2 café colombiano con un minuto o diez, porfa?
“Con Un Minuto / Avec Une Minute” by Puerto Candelaria. I wouldn’t dare argue with anyone describing cumbia as ‘unifying’. You can hear the continuity here as compared with the Ecuadorian ilk we began with. A different flavour, but still unapologetically modern in its twist. A flavour as human as surrendering to the Equator’s demand for sweat.
3 samba, a brazilian gift.
“Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes. As a 90s baby, Magalenha was a gem whose origins I hadn’t learned until I was able to discern Portuguese as a language, but that is less important than the mark it left on my childhood of many dance performances. It would always play the reprise when they featured all the dancers (one of which would be my flesh and blood). Magalenha and I were reunited recently. And the drums jolt my heart out my chest and onto a sweltering floor where one can’t possibly rest their feet for but a microsecond.
4 são tomé e príncipe nos dão uma coisa também, ou dois
“Allez” by Calema featuring Cubita. Calema have electrified kizomba’s wings. They have accelerated their rpm. They have broken the colour of blinding light into a scintillating love song. They have mastered hubris.
5 gabonese iboga is hallucinogenic; it is also yellow and bulbous.
“Afrika Oboto” by Pierre Akendengue. Monsieur Pierre Akendengue’s vocals here could be described as deceptively shrill. Think of the way sun rays glisten as they travel over water. Are specks of light shrunken sun? Or did the sun swell them oceanic?
6 congolese* rhumba is objective heaven.
“Yolele” by Papa Wemba. The vivacious strings under Papa Wemba’s vocals are the Equator about the earth’s axis. I’m right that this is moving ground. I’m left unable to separate shifting transform plates from that of a rhumba dancer’s waist. RIP to this Central African legend.
7 their ndombolo is just as good.*
“Yeke Yeke” by Werrason featuring Bikorine and But Na Fillet. The side-step exemplified in this music video is as infectious as the rhythm itself. They are wider than they are high. They, too, are equatorial. The zero degrees that render the possibility of freezing is as valid as the zero degrees at which one melts.
*Despite Congo/DRC’s political history, it’s been easier for me to find music from DRC. I’m not saying the countries are the same, but there seems to be kind of unity here where musicians are concerned.
8 sweet kidandali from uganda.
“Nguwe Ani” by Chris Evans Kaweesi featuring David Lutalo. This tune opens up and spreads across the tongue like a wide smile aroused by a familiar sweetness. Its teeth are inviting and not at all threatening. They need not sink in to remind you. Your receptors trust the weight.
9 kenya offers the sun.
“Suzanna” by Sauti Sol. In this very new single, Sauti Sol sing to Suzanna, wishing her tongue-in-cheek happiness about her life decisions that arguably take her away from her Africa. Pride carries influence like the gall of the first rhythmic step.
10 perhaps somalia glistens, and the HoA should; perhaps she wears night sky and flecks of gold.
“Somali Udiida Ceb” by Maryam Musal. I won’t claim to know her sounds beyond the textures they ring. I won’t claim to know that the sun sleeps in the ear of Maryam Mursal.
11 indonesia brings an old friend home.
“Jatuh Hati” by Raisa. Raisa stretches the language of R&B and pop. Attachment makes a fool of my memory, having me believe I’ve heard this before. Having me believe I’ve been anywhere at all more than once. And isn’t full circle inherently dependent upon beginnings? Doesn’t it afford new breath to old vessels? Is it possible to live and remain unchanged? Is the unknown not as omnipresent as the sun?