Soothsayers - We Are Many
Wah Wah 45s - WAHLP0019
South London-based band Soothsayers are set to release their ninth studio album 'We Are Many'. Held together by heavy basslines, solid grooves, and socially and politically charged lyrics; the album takes the listener into different sonic spaces with elements of dub, Afrobeat, improvisational jazz and electronica.
The initial steps in recording 'We Are Many' came in January 2019 when the band's founders - saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcraft - set out on a journey to Brazil. With executive production in the Sao Paulo studio by renowned music journalist and author David Katz, they hooked up with bass player and producer Victor Rice who they'd met sharing the bill at Freedom Sounds festival in Cologne, Germany a year earlier. Victor organised a session in Studio Traquitana, home of acclaimed Brazilian band Bixiga 70, and invited a selection of local musicians. Percussionist and singer Ligia Kamara contributed lyrics and melodies written in the studio, and drummer Bruno Buarque, guitarist Joao Erbetta and bassist Victor provided some solid, personality-driven input. Fresh and vital, what came out was a fascinating blend of Soothsayers' dub and Afrobeat mixed with distinctly Brazilian inflections.
After arriving back in the UK, Idris and Robin set about creating the remainder of the album in a different, yet complimentary way, and called on the services of Wu-Lu and Kwake at their The Room studio in South London. Things started to take shape very quickly, Wu-Lu and Kwake combining Soothsayers' music with electronic elements, while also referencing elements of the current UK jazz scene.
When lockdown hit in March 2020, there was still a lot of work to do in order to complete a full album and Robin and Idris set about working on tracks with their musicians remotely. Having time to consider the album as a whole, they found strong connections between the music recorded in Brazil and the tracks recorded in London and they set about fusing and combining these elements further into a satisfying whole.
UK based Sengalese singer Modou Toure was enlisted to guest on one track while percussionists Satin Singh and Maurizio Ravalico were engaged to help affirm a sound-world where Brazilian flavours, such as the low-end Surdo drum, were combined with sounds more readily associated with reggae and Afrobeat.
Soothsayers' three part vocal harmony is a defining factor in this album. With strong references to the vocal styles of reggae legends such as The Gladiators, Mighty Diamonds, Heptones, and Abyssinnians; it has benefited from the long-standing friendship between Robin, Idris and Julia Biel. Lyrics, melodies and harmonies were presented, discussed, explored and recorded at Idris' and Julia's home studio in Streatham in a relaxed and positive way, with concepts from social and political commentary turned into powerful songs.
Themes cover political observations of Trump and beyond alongside Brazil's president Bolsanaro (Rat Race), speaking out against increasing levels of violence from the Brazilian government towards its native and indigenous people (Love And Unity) and keeping hopeful despite the impending horrors of a no-deal Brexit (We Won't Lose Hope).
Elsewhere they discuss striving to create space for meditation and reflection against the background noise of 24/7 news and social media (Move In Silence), the daily grind (No Sacrifice) and workers' rights (Slave), while highlighting those that fall through the cracks in society and end up without a permanent address, what led to this and how close we all are from this happening (One Step Away).
'We Are Many' represents a positive and uplifting statement in the face of challenging times - the overriding force, power and positivity of the music to continue forward, pushing the boundaries of musical concepts into the future.
"Whilst heavy questions of life and death and the future of our species surround us all, music is a guide that can help us perceive the challenges in a different way - a guide that can help us towards a deep inner peace. If we listen, music can help light the way. We hope you will listen, and we hope you will experience the joy, meditative power and beauty in the connection of different musical cultures that was experienced in the creation of this album."
- Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft