Songhoy, But Not Blues (February 18th, 2018, St. Louis / Columbia, Missouri)

In St. Louis for the weekend to hear George Saunders (see 2/17/18) and see Black Panther (today), we did both some jetting and lazing around, including trips to a Vietnamese restaurant we’ve been frequenting for almost 30 years, the Pho Grand, and Mission Taco, which almost assassinated us with horrible piped-in hipster ambience and lazily-prepared and overpriced cocktails. So we didn’t have much time to focus on music, but…couple things:

Caught up with Songhoy Blues’ 2017 release, Résistance. The Malian unit is loved by many folks because they rock it out, and distrusted by many because they are thus impure desert bluesologists. I hold with the former group. I shouldn’t need to say that purity is overrated (if it is even real), and impurities often bring us surprise and delight. They can also lead to a messy artistic experience, but, unlike its predecessor Music in Exile, which sinned simply by rocking up the percussion and guitar ideas, Résistance folds in reggae, funk, horns, Iggy Pop as well and comes out alive. How? Intensity. Commitment. Inspiration.

Nicole: “You know, I think I am going to put together a Top 10 this year, and this is gonna be on it.” It’s slightly old to make a 2018 list, but I’m not going to tell her that–and years are arbitrary constructs anyway, kind of.

Fairly final thoughts on Black Panther The Album–Music from and Inspired by The Film:

“Inspired,” quite honestly, is a poor choice of words. The movie is pure dynamite: it’s visually stunning, conceptually rich, and wonderfully acted. Not a dull moment. The album, however, is frequently dull. Even Mr. Lamar does little but holler a few repetitive hooks; his lyrics only occasionally seem to make contact with the world of the film. The highlights are drop-ins by Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, and those are fleeting highs. All in all, a missed opportunity.

I did have a few minor caveats/questions about the film:

*Why do we spend so much time seeing Africans fight Africans? Perhaps there is a longer game the franchise is playing?

*Incorporating a CIA operator into one’s fold is a bizarre move for an African king. I know it’s an alternative, fictional world, but it’s running side-by-side with the U.S.A.’s real history of subjugation, brutality, and oppression. Hasn’t T’Challa read up on, to take just one instance, Patrice Lumumba? Aside from that, there’s just a dollop of white saviorism in play, and, as my friend Greg pointed out in a Facebook post, the political conciliation at the movie’s end is somewhat disappointing.

But–it’s of great art that we ask such questions, because it raises the bar of the possible. I’m thinking about going again today, not to investigate but just luxuriate in its brilliance.

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