For the second edition of this chronic, we will introduce you to the vinyl:
Beats de Los Muertos (Vol.1) produced by the American artist Osunlade.
The link between spiritualism and music doesn’t get any stronger than here. In most religion music plays an important role, mainly during ceremonies where its main purpose is to accompany prayers, and elevate the soul.
We tend however to dissociate those two notions when refereeing to modern music. However when it comes to Osunlade this link is more than necessary because the musical and professional evolution of this artist is deeply linked to his spiritual vision of music.
Osunlade was born in the American heartland, in Saint Louis, Mississippi state. He started his career in 1988 working in different projects such as the TV show “sesame street”.
He took his distance with this world pretty quickly, which allowed him to grow as an artist.
« Osunlade felt the pressures and practices of the music business overshadowed his passion of music. He decided to no longer work under the influences of corporate ideals and demands. Choosing to find spiritual solace and to honor his soul »
This approach drove him toward Ifa, the god of the voodoo tribe of Yoruba in Benin.
This anecdote could seem meaningless, but is necessary in order to have a full understanding of the artist in general and more specifically the vinyl we are interested in here. Indeed, Christian Warren, in addition of being a well-known producer and DJ, is a priest of the Yoruba religion.
You may not know what this religion is all about, but do not worry, as this vinyl, released by Osunlade on its label Yoruba Records in Mars 2000., is a true initiation.
Indeed, this vinyl, is full of references more or less direct to this cult, and is thus a real guidebook of the Yoruba religion, which gave its name to Osunlade’s label. For example the vinyl’s name Beats de los Muertos is a reference of two important aspect of the Yoruba culture.
First of all, the cult of the dead and the symbolic attached to it, are central elements of the voodoo cult where bones, statuettes, and other morbid representations are popular. As well, the vinyl’s Spanish name underlines the melting pot of this religion, arrived in the US through slavery, transiting by the Caribbean. The Hispanic culture of the area, despite being Christian, is deeply influenced by voodoo.
The first track « Cantos A Ochun Et Oya », is named after Ochun and Oya, Yoruba gods: Ochun being the goddess of fertility and womanhood, while Oya is the goddess of wind death and ancestors.
This track is in fact an invocation of those gods in Spanish. The mix between maracas and cymbals gives a taste of wildnerss to the music, whilst the harmonica’s solo reminds us of the American origins of the artist. The main vocal of a woman, seems to be coming from a priestess. A feminine choir gives the track a feeling of collective joy pretty unique. It is in fact the most noticeable track of the vinyl.
On the same side we can also listen to the track « Siguaraya », another religious reference to Yoruba, considering that Siguraya is a plant used to get in trance. The track is really close to the tribal culture, because of the use of the tam-tam rhythm with no other musical effect. One would not be surprised to here this kind of track in some kind of exposition on tribal culture, rather than on an American house vinyl.
The first track on side B « Africa », reminds us of the geographic origins of that culture. Really close to the previous track (Siguaraya); it feels like it is the club-oriented version of the same track with the addition of sonar effects and a beat. The relatively simple composition (no vocals, only different kind of percussions) makes the track a little less easy to listen to, but nevertheless interesting. Percussions give energy to the track, sending our mind drifting whilst our body follows mechanically the rhythm. Probably the artist’s purpose in that case.
The last piece of the record « I don’t Know » contrast with the rest of the vinyl. Indeed this track comes much more closer to the classic American deep house music than to the tribal Afro-house that Osunlade has accustomed us to in his previous pieces. While listening to this track we may think more of labels such as Hot creation rather than Yoruba record. The track is really pleasant, and the artist even used his own voice for the vocal. In addition, Osunlade’s specific timbre of voice and the effects used, gives a mystical aspect to the track, thus blending it surprisingly well with the rest of the record.
This really original vinyl has the merit of introducing the audience to tones that we are not accustomed to as a basic modern music listener. The artist succeeds however, especially on the track A1 (« Cantos a Ochun y Oya »), at creating a perfectly suitable sound for clubbing, using a totally different musical identity from the nightclub atmosphere. This track is a success, and should convince more than one. The three other tracks may seem a bit harsher at first, even if the track « I don’t Know » is designed for an audience used to nightclubs.
When it comes to my opinion I tend to have a preference for the tribal percussions tracks (Siguaraya and Africa) even if they are « less conventional ». In any case, this vinyl is musically rich, and represent a real change from what we are used to listen to in our day-to-day life.
For those convinced by the vinyl, or the artist long time lovers, you will have the chance to see Osunlade and the team of Yoruba records perform the Friday 27th November at Nest London.