THE PRESS RELEASE: “Shabaka & The Ancestors was formed in 2016; Shabaka Hutchings had been flying to Johannesburg to play with trumpeter/bandleader Mandla Mlangeni, who connected him to a group of South African jazz musicians that Hutchings admired. After several sessions, their first album Wisdom Of Elders was made. This follow-up record reunites the group, who recorded again in Johannesburg and Cape Town last year. This album is more urgent, more unrelenting, darker and energetic and presents a major social commentary in the context of ancient traditions. Shabaka explains this is “what happens after that point when life as we know it can’t continue.” We Are Sent Here By History mixes African and Afro-Caribbean traditions. The album takes the concept of the griot — the living archive of a historical narrative, the storyteller and contextualizer — and presents the album as the modern day griot. Therefore, a really important aspect to this is the accompanying text to this album: South African performance artist Siyabonga Mthembu chants and sings on this record and composed lyrics for the album. Shabaka then chose song titles from the lyrics and composed poems around each title, based on Siyabonga’s lyrics. On the aptly titled We Will Work (On Redefining Manhood), Siyabonga sings a poem in Zulu that, when translated to English, shuns the archaic pillars of virility. From childhood, young boys are trained to suppress their emotions and suffer in silence. “This song sings from the point of the toxic masculine,” Siyabonga says. “It repeats the sentences they tell to their boys — to not cry, to not grieve and to not hurt.” Says Hutchings: “We Are Sent Here by History is a meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning. a questioning of the steps to be taken in preparation for our transition individually and societally if the end is to be seen as anything but a tragic defeat. For those lives lost and cultures dismantled by centuries of western expansionism, capitalist thought and white supremist structural hegemony the end days have long been heralded as present with this world experienced as an embodiment of a living purgatory.”
MY TWO CENTS: British saxophone trailblazer Shabaka Hutchings has been on quite the hot streak lately with his other bands, the acclaimed outfits Sons of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming. Based on the deep dynamic grooves, soaring exploratory solos and exotically stirring vocals at the heart of these transcendent and compelling pan-cultural tracks, it’s clear that in his case, good things really do come in threes. Until he starts up a fourth band, anyway. You have been called. History awaits.