We Are Sent Here By History

We Are Sent Here By History

Alongside Londoners such as saxophonist Nubya Garcia, tuba player Theon Cross, and keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, Shabaka Hutchings is at the forefront of club jazz’s resurgence in the UK. The British-Barbadian artist’s various projects all work in Afro-political idioms, with each occupying a different philosophical realm: Sons of Kemet focuses on black displacement in royal Britain, The Comet Is Coming is influenced by Afrofuturism and progressive rock, and Shabaka and the Ancestors explores the African diaspora from the standpoint of Western culture’s erasure of black identity and communities. On We Are Sent Here By History, Hutchings and his South Africa-based band use history as a reflection point, but one that deeply informs the future. Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, and Yusef Lateef are just a few of the musical-political touchstones that also influence the record, and you hear these icons in the powerful chants and spoken words of Siyabonga Mthembu, the phrasing of the woodwinds—chaotic, playful, spiritual—and the general status-quo-challenging vibe of the arrangement. Like his predecessors, Hutchings makes protest songs that make you feel alive, even when they are indictments of colonialism and toxic masculinity. But he also uses music as a corrective: Like its title suggests, “We Will Work (On Redefining Manhood)”—all looping chanted vocals around a multitude of percussive instruments—looks beyond a dark past towards brighter days.

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