My attitude towards the music I listen to mimics my book collection. Spoilt with too many options, I struggle to make a choice when the time for consumption comes.
I listen to a lot of music in the bathroom. For me, shower time is music time. I stand dressed in nothing but my earth suit, scrolling my mobile device for so long that my legs begin to ache. Shower pouring endlessly (to give the missus that the showering process is ongoing). I spend so long trying to find the exact track to suit the moment and the mood. Out of exasperation, I either choose one that I regret as soon as the connected speaker starts booming or I end up with a regularly played track.
This had gone on for so long that one day I decided to take a deliberately random step. I tied a bath towel, got out, connected external drive to the PC and decided to create a playlist. I had discovered that almost daily, I ended up playing the same songs in the shower and truly enjoyed them or chose ones I quickly came to discover did not resonate with the showering experience. So I populated the playlist with these tracks. They were just a few tracks (four of them at the start).
The shower time was now crispier and the mood had predictability to it. The playlist became a ritual. One that I savoured and looked forward to. There were very few deviations to this established order. A problem arose when I discovered new favourites or rediscovered old ones and wanted to add them to the playlist. Within a few months, I now had eight tracks and found myself standing longer and longer in the shower, as I let not just the soap and hot water wash over me, but the entire playlist which had become a melodious ablution. With the playlist currently lasting 45 mins, bathing and dressing up are now a serious issue.
In the Beginning; This is an old tune of the trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. I discovered it last year. This is the thing I find with the sort of music I enjoy. No matter how much I collect, some old stuff I never had, pops up and blows my mind. This track is very short but serves as a wake-up call. The name is apt. Every time I get into the bathroom and about to step into the bathtub when it starts only then does it truly hit me that another day has dawned and it is another beginning. The notes from the horn are firm and persistent while the drums provide a cascading waterfall background to it. Nothing sets my mood any better at the start of the day.
Higher (Spiritual Healing); This is an odd choice but one that hits a rare note. When I was a keen follower of Nigerian pop music scene, I remember when this album was released and how odd this song sounded back then. However, the message stood out and resonates with me much more, each passing day. 2face Idibia (he now identifies as 2baba) said he always toyed with the idea of doing a song with an Indian music root. Toyed with the idea and ended up with this extremely conscious message. There is something deeply resonating about thinking about the day ahead and hearing the message booming out of my speaker, reminding me the simplicity of life when we choose to not trample on another man just to be elevated, that inflated egos can easily be deflated and that the power of forgiveness is underrated. In an increasingly narcissistic world where the market place is a jungle, it pays to hear this every morning and having Philippians 2:4 reinforced in this way.
Eho; I have a long history with this song. I am a fairly regular attendee at The Positive Force’s Thursday rehearsals and Sunday Jump whenever Femi is in Lagos. The way I light up whenever he plays this song is a sight to behold. Most songs sound better in live performances than on recordings. This is one song that proves that point. It is bland and ordinary in the studio version but luckily, there is a live version from this 2004 live recording that was done at the Shrine. The way Femi joins the chorus (which is started by the crowd and the backup vocalists) at the end of the first line is so soothing as it almost feels coaxed out of him. This song is a meditative prayer that is a reflective piece which opens any heart irrespective of creed or faith. It is universal as it highlights the various weather conditions across the globe while asking the creator to grant us the wisdom needed for the day. An absolute favourite of mine.
Stay Cool; I read one of the numerous South African jazz articles that the internet brings my way every now and again, where a playlist was discussed and it contained one of Tete Mbambisa’s tracks was explored. That was all the reminder I needed to reacquaint myself with his works. The reason why Stay Cool stuck since then was that it had a nostalgic touch to it as one of my favourite bass players – Sipho Gumede played bass in this song. As soothing as Tete Mbambisa’s notes on this song are, the calm but firm bass chords from Sipho Gumede take me back to a past filled with very fond memories. Seeing Sipho Gumede play live was an introspective experience (he passed on in 2004) that matches the sort of mood you will want early in the morning and this song plays that part perfectly.
Neo Native; There is something most music listeners are familiar with – you play an album for the first time and stick to the few tracks that resonate with you and ignore the less appealing ones. There is something different but somewhat related in the album. Neo Native is the opening track of the album. The first two times I listened to the entire album but noticed my reluctance to go beyond the first track. Not that the others were not good. Actually, every track in this album is excellent. The problem was that the very best was the opening track and I just could not go past it. I found myself playing it on a loop over and again. Sadly I am not sure I have played the rest of the tracks in the album more than half a dozen times since it was released but I have lost count of the times I have played Neo Native, much worse now it is in my shower playlist. This song does it for me. The interplay between Bokani’s calm but reassuring piano notes and Sphelelo Mazibuko’s very patient drum chops almost send me back to bed in a state of bliss after shower each morning. Romy Brauteseth’s bass serves as an unobtrusive backbone to this rich tune that serves as a good ambassador of all that is good and excellent about South African jazz.
Tembissa (The People); Virality in social media is a strange but often beautiful thing. This song was released in 2002 and I have had not just it but both albums of the excellent pianist, Andile Yenana for years. However, last year a tweet containing a video where some oldie was dancing to this jam in a house party (or was it a tavern) went viral and I found myself revisiting the song and it has been stuck since then. It naturally found its way to the shower playlist and it is a mood setter indeed. I must also confess that another reason why I love this track is that it features a personal favourite of mine – the trumpeter Feya Faku. There is an elegant melody that emanates from Feya Faku’s horn. One that is easily matched by Andile’s notes. Someone said this song is a language on its own, not just a mood. I wholly agree. Play this on a Saturday morning in the shower and almost nothing can go wrong afterwards. The chill feeling is on another level.
Olwethu; This one is a more recent addition and a worthy one too. I have written about my love for the sound that this gentleman produces here. Mandisi is a wonderful composer, vocalist and trumpeter. In this track, it is his horns that sail to heavens and produce a sound that envelopes my mornings.
Grooving for Jaume; Earlier this year, I was in Paris and my short stay coincided with a gig of Ignasi Terraza at the famous and excellent Duc De Lombards. I was lucky to be in the audience. The set was a heady one as one left almost choke-full of good music. It was a wonderful night. Of all the excellent music he and his trio performed that night, this jam stuck to me. It is melodious and displays wonderful chemistry between the three players. This song wraps up my playlist and is very upbeat and groovy. This one often comes up when I am in front of the mirror and dressing up. Time for a little shuffle as I tidy up and head to the dinning for some physical food after lots of soul food.