Thursday, September 20, 2012

'Making Space': A review of "The Tru I" by Sahra Indio

Constantly in motion. I have what I like to call a few running 'projects' in terms of who I listen to and who I make a point to pay attention to and make room for on my players when they have something new. These are artists who, for the most part, I haven't arrived at a prevailing judgment of what exactly I think of them and how much of a fan I'm going to be in their cases and, wonderfully, I think it's probably the same case for almost any fan of music who makes a point to listen to a wide variety of different voices. Of course you have your absolute favourites and favourites of varying degrees who you constantly check for the work of, but you're also always looking for new individuals to add to that list as well. Currently for me, I'm thinking of artists such as Eljai, someone like Ras Indio (both of whom, coincidentally, are from out of Belize), Avaran (if he can stay active) and a few others who, for one reason or another, have managed to pop up on my radars and I'm well interested in making more room for them should they continue making fantastic music. On top of that, in the scope of just the time spent on this blog, I can also point to examples such as, most notably, the incomparable Sara Lugo and Toussaint, who have been former 'projects' of mine who have ascended to the platform of really being individuals for whom I will GLADLY go out of my way to listen to anytime they bring something new. Another very interesting and colourful entry on whom we checked in initially (just a couple of years back was the very refreshing veteran, Sahra Indio from out of Hawaii. Our most informal formal 'greeting' with the vocalist came in the form of an album which I believe was her third set, the very strong "Change", which came via the camp of one of the most talented people in Reggae music, the legendary Tuff Lion. That latter part of that comment is more than enough to get my attention and to hold it for some time actually, but I'm pretty sure that if there were absolutely nothing else, two years later I wouldn't at all be interested in a followup.

"Change" [2007]
But clearly I am. What I heard on the "Change" album was someone who very much brought in a Jazzified blend of Reggae music and, retrospectively, it was a trait with which she didn't seemed to have programmed or over-developed or anything at all. Indio seemed to have just started making music and what you heard was what came out and so many times we hear artists intentionally going to mix certain things and certain styles and while that is exactly what she did, it did not seem to my ears that Sahra Indio had intentionally set out to make that style - which proved to be positively hypnotic. Again, it is just what her style happened to be. Also very fascinating was Indio's voice. I made a comparison back then that she sounded a bit like international superstar, Sade, which was another quality which caught my ear but, again, it wouldn't have been enough on its own. Sahra Indio had considerable talents as well. 

"Marijuana Music" EP [2010]
So, while it may have taken quite awhile (and it did, "Change" actually released back in 2007), Sahra Indio, "The Original Bush Mama" & "Jah's Jewel", now returns with a brand new album, "The Tru I". Indio originally comes from out of Philadelphia, but she's very much made Hawaii her physical and musical home. And as we talked about in the review for the last album, and several other times over the course of the past couple of years or so, Hawaii was and remains a hotbed of Reggae music and since then has even produced a bonafide potential star in the form of J-Boog. Sahra Indio hasn't exactly been absent in recent times either, she's popped up in the last two years as well. Most notably there was the EP, "Marijuana Music", from 2010. That five tune set focused on… well I'm sure you know what it focused on and even featured Indio on its cover showcasing her Marijuana Music Award. I don't know who many people heard that set, although it did contain a tune which was very popular I believe (more on that later, because it's also on this album), but it stood out for me, again, really just based on Indio's presentation of her music and as I go through it now, I go in the familiar direction of really just thinking of how much PASSION she has fro the music she sings. It is often typical when you find someone who ends up singing Reggae and doesn't come at all through some of the more stereotypical channels through which the music generally finds her stars, that you encounter people who just have a great deal of desire and LOVE for the music and those are qualities, even during some of her more laid back moments, which really show themselves well in Indio's case. So hopefully, by the time we're finished with "The Tru I", we'll be singing the same tune again. Besides that EP, Sahra Indio also dropped, just back in January of this year, what I believe is the first single from this album, 'Humanity'. Although I'm almost certain I remember seeing it, I didn't make the connection that it was probably a bit of an omen of things to come, but with that being said, I am DAMN please to have a new album from Sahra Indio and was well looking forward to diving in once again. And I'm taking you with me! Let's go!

Another nice point to the artist's music (as if she needed something else) (and she didn't), is her wonderful way of writing - a distinction which, most fortunately has manage to survive to the new album. She writes song s which are actually about some topic and she sticks to those topics. That won't sound like anything special, but as someone who has done more than a few of these, trust me when I say it's quite rare. She also has this very 'open-ended' way of writing which very much leaves spaces, and even entire tunes at times, really open for the listener's own interpretation and if you know me at all, I LOOOOOOOOOVE to interpret! My first opportunity to do that within the brand new album from Sahra Indio, "The Tru I", comes on the opener and my second favourite selection on this album, 'Big Fish'. When I first heard this tune I kind of didn't really know what to make of it (fitting), but where I am with it now is that Indio is speaking not necessarily to the leaders of the world, but to the leaders of the future. She says something very, very interesting: 

"Find a higher state of giving" 

And she's definitely projecting the message broadly and outward and not necessarily to any one specific person or group of people, directly. If I'm actually correct in that, that makes 'Big Fish' an incredibly unique tune and, even if your construal is different from mine, I still think that it is a big tune and a lovely way to get started. Next in is 'Finish Line' which is a bit more straight forward as here we find Indio really just speaking about motivating and inspiring the masses to finish what you started and stay the course even though the course, itself, may be dwindling and decaying. The third tune on "The Tru I" is the best song on the album to my opinion, the aforementioned (and hopefully pictured) previous single, 'Humanity'. 

"Was there ever a time we lived in peace?
Did we ever dwell on this earth in harmony?
Are there facts?
Are there clues?
Does anybody know?
Before dynasties recorded histories, does anybody know?
Do we allow the mystery to be?
Is this romantic fantasy?
Someone tell me where I can go!

Across seas and continents -
I'll keep searching for the evidence
A time of innocence, a time of patience -
A time when people weren't forsaken

In isolation and small bands, did we cooperate, did we overstand?
We check our lineage, we're all relatives and it should be a privilege to let it show
All the cave-drawings, all the Petri glyphs - 
Signs that a better life did exist
And did we use more of our intelligence?
I want to know!"

Indio, essentially, wants to know what went wrong, if we're under the thinking that society was once this very peaceful and still functioning unit that one day, or one time, suddenly became violent. She goes about this is a most unusual, yet entirely refreshing, manner - through taking the prehistoric route. MAGICAL tune!

'Humanity' - Digital Single [2012]
The next two songs, in my opinion, really continue the line of pieces from the head of "The Tru I" which are just unquestionably good songs. 'Testify' is an unfortunately rare type of selection because it's actually a female artist, very straight forward, just singing a song about her husband. Again, that's not something which sounds very rare, but I can't think of a similar piece without some HEAVY consideration (and no, 'Jim Screechie' does not apply). So biggup Sahra Indio for obviously being in love. And then there is 'Right Fight' ["some dressed to die, wearing plastic rims, others dressed to die in the skin they live in"] which is a stirring social commentary and the first, so directly, of its kind on the album. This tune also kind of brings in a bit more fire and an edge for the album, which is a very good thing in this case. A similar tune to that one would be the later piece, 'Enuff'.

"We've had enough
We've had enough, can't take no more
Too many hungry babies
Too many hopelessly poor
We've had enough
We've had enough, can't take no more
The masses are gathering
It's a global uproar

We're at the point - we're not giving in
With sticks and stones, we face opposition
No mask with tear gas or ammunition
Still we must holdfast to our position
We rise against abusive power
To attain freedom, we'll never cower
We'll sacrifice in the final hour
Coldhearted leaders must be devoured"

It's another kind of biting social commentary to my ears which, as you take in the entire album, is an aspect of it which you would have almost NEEDED. A completely kind of 'counter-punching' album would have lessened the point to my ears, you've got to go on the offensive at least once or twice and that's what you hear on 'Enuff' and 'Right Fight', respectively. Also definitely take a listen to 'I'm Not The Only One', which doesn't unerringly follow the same path as the previously mentioned pair, but isn't a huge deviation from them either. I really like how this one is set-up as Indio, basically, uses herself as a metaphor or a microcosm of struggling and oppressed society. She does step out of 'herself at times in the song, but only to even make a grander point. It is EASILY one of the finest arranged compositions you'll find here and one which is not to be missed. 

Of course, Indio is sure to touch on what is one her favourite topics of discourse on "The Tru I" and that comes through over the course of another very similar pair of tracks. The very 'matter-of-fact' 'Pro Marijuana' doesn't leave very much room for elucidation, but you wouldn't have had to think about that anyway in her case (remember the award). 

"I'm pro-marijuana 
More than a weed to get you higher
Through history - cannabis shaped destiny
Pro marijuana
More than a weed to catch a fire
For centuries - hemp was used extensively 

Laws don't make any sense you see
It's a global conspiracy 
Why hold down this magic weed?
It produces everything we need
Throughout Asia and the Middle East -
Hemp was man's first industry 
From ten-thousand years BC
Pick up the book, check the history" 

The piece which precedes it on the album, however, does require a bit more explanation. 'Roger Dat' is a song Sahra Indio does in tribute to Roger Christie who is a currently incarcerated Hawaiian minister and very large proponent of marijuana awaiting trial for. I wasn't at all very educated about Christie and I imagine that will be the case with many who hear this song which was, at least presumably, written in part to bring a global level of awareness and attention to his case which is OBVIOUSLY something very important to Indio. 

The eccentric side of "The Tru I" reveals itself during the album's final stages and we get some very TEXTURED efforts from Sahra Indio. Along with a SWEET dubbed out version of 'I'm Not The Only One', there's a very… different tune like 'DNA', which actually also appears on "Kinda Vol. 4" from "Dread & Alive" (where Indio has become a semi-regular contributor). I guess this may be what you call Dubstep (forgive me if it isn't, I know nothing about Dubstep), which would explain why I STILL don't know what to make of it. Lyrically, although it does kind of 'mind the moment' of the vibes of the song, it's pretty strong, but it's wrapped up within one very dark package musically on the easy choice for the album's changeup. There's also the very skeletal 'Natural Living' which is kind of an aura type of song. It's like a Dub with more vocals than usual, but the vocals are almost certainly just a kind of freestyle and the song makes its way, whether you like it ultimately or not, on the mood that it creates. It's a very interesting creation and one which I expect will generate a lot of response (again, on both sides). And finally, as I alluded to, we get a track which was present on the "Marijuana Music" EP, 'At The Awa Bar', in an acoustic version. No problem at all with this song and I believe it's one of the artist's most popular pieces (she also made a video for it) to date and its presence on this album comes to no surprise.  

Sahra Indio

Overall, I have a have a whole heap of prevailing thoughts on "The Tru I" album. The smallest of which certainly is not the fact that I hear this one as being a bit more accessible than its predecessor, musically. Tuff Lion is not someone you're going to be listening to very much if you aren't a very heavy fan of Reggae music and you may not even know who he is if you don't fit into that group (fortunately you do and that's no concern of yours and biggup the Lion who has a GORGEOUS new single running now - 'I Want the World To Know'), but this time around what you have is a less Reggae-centric type of a project, but it's still one which can be appreciated by fans who are, themselves, more Reggae-centric - like me and probably You. I'm also thinking that I kind of want to hear Sahra Indio doing a combination. She has such a nice and 'flexible' style that you would think that she very well make a nice voice alongside pretty much anyone and in the future I hope she goes more in that direction just to change things up. As it stands, however, "The Tru I" is an album which doesn't need very much help at all. It well lives up to expectations and it also manages to continue the surge began (at least) on the "Change" album. I don't know what the next step is and I hope I don't have to wait until 2017 to hear it, but as of 2012, she's no longer a project listen for me. Of Sahra Indio? I am a fan. Well done.
Rated: 4/5
Olumeye Records
CD + Digital

Review #387

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