Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making your life better? Today, lawyer, activist and former top flight footballer (the only Socceroo to have been featured in Smash Hits), Francis Awaritefe.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
I was reading a Dr Cornel West interview with Questlove about the Black struggle for racial and social justice, how Jazz, Blues and the Funk as an art form, has been a medium of expression for the Black struggle. Dr West name checked John Coltrane, Curtis Mayfield and legendary funk bassist William ‘Bootsy’ Collins, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin, to name a few, as exemplars of this Black tradition. Being of Nigerian descent, I’m adding Fela Kuti to this list.
So, during lockdown, I’ve been on a jazz blues and funk odyssey to rediscover music I hadn’t listened to for a while such as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’ A Kind of Cool, Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, Weather Report’s Heavy Weather, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man and Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys.
Other artists I’ve been listening to include Parliament and Funkadelic. It’s been great discovering deep cuts from Funkadelic’s early albums. Public Enemy, You Am I (new album The Lives of Others), Kendrick Lamar and Living Colour (Stain) and The Badloves (Get On Board and EP called 14) are also getting plenty of air time.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
Public Enemy’s Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age, Apocalypse 91 and Fear of A Black Planet. I’ve also been re-discovering John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and his personal history, which has been a pleasure.
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN CHANGED THE WAY YOU CONSUME MUSIC?
I don’t stream music because artists in the main are getting massively ripped off by streaming companies and record companies. I mainly still download music that I consume whether via iTunes, directly from artists or independent record labels. I’ve also started buying vinyl records again - even though I don’t yet own a turntable.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
For me the rediscovery process was about revisiting albums in a period during the 1970s where soul and funk was arguably at its zenith. There were magnificent releases such as Stevie Wonder (Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Songs In The Key Of Life), Kool & the Gang (Wild And Peaceful, Love & Understanding), Commodores (Machine Gun), Bill Withers, Parliament (Mothership Connection, Moto-Booty Affair) Isley Brothers and Steely Dan - just to name a few artists and albums.
I love it because these musicians were what my older brother used to listen to and it rubbed off on me later. I also love that this era was fertile ground for “sample” raids by rap and hip hop artists of yesteryears and even today. Once my son was listening to Coolio track Gangsta’s Paradise and thought the music was an original by Coolio. I told him the music was a sample of a Stevie Wonder track. I got out Songs In The Key Of Life and played him Pastime Paradise - the reaction from my son was priceless. He loves Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise now.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC – OR AN ARTIST OR GENRE - THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
I’ve been listening to an independent UK artist Greg Blackman. In addition to being a brilliant songwriter, GB is also an amazing vocalist. GB’s musical range spans soul, blues, funk and hip hop - and frequently a cross pollination of these genres to create something truly unique.
The thing with GB is that with his musical range, it seems to me he’s genuinely taking artistic risks with his compositions and collaborations in defiance of being shoehorned into a particular musical genre. GB’s either a very brave artist or he’s a mad genius. As a fan of his work, you’re always wondering where he’s going to go next. I’m looking forward to his latest collaboration called StankBomb Recordings which should be out soon. GB put out some tracks as teasers online and they sound wicked.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
There’s something very comforting about listening to jazz/gospel/soul songs that have a spiritual bent to them when one is feeling stressed and anxious. Songs which comes to mind are Billy Preston That’s The Way God Planned It (I have a bootleg live cover by The Badloves which is excellent); The Staple Singers (Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ Superstar) from the Be Altitude album); and pretty much anything by Curtis Mayfield (Preacher Man and People Get Ready are two favourites). A Gomez song called Best In Town and Let it Be by The Beatles also get an honourable mention.
Francis Awaritefe is not waiting for us to act.