You don’t need me to tell you what it means to have a Breonna Taylor verdict go south, or to watch the season of hell that is George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee and (sadly, sadly) more unfurl. You don’t need me to discuss inequity in all of its forms.
You need poets, seers, sages and intergenerational Black artists touched by trauma, mad with memory and ripe with deeply abiding and innovative music. This week, in Philadelphia, that means Moor Mother and Bilal.
Since her start, I’ve interviewed and penned several features and review of the locally-based poet, electronic musician and Art Ensemble of Chicago collaborator Camae Ayewa — aka Moor Mother — who, this year alone, has released harshing-your-mellow soundscapes such as “CLEPSYDRA,” “Fetish Bones,” “DIAL UP,” “Forever Industries,” and more.
This Friday, Moor Mother is releasing “Circuit City” on Philly’s Don Giovanni Records. Based on her first-ever theatrical work – premiered at FringeARts in 2019, and now including the contributions of her ensemble, Irreversible Entanglements – the Ntozake Shange-inspired musical touched on the inequities of gender, of race, of how and where Black America can live, and how corporations and governments are designed to crush Black male and female souls, along with their drive and creativity.
Germantown’s Bilal, once known for smooth and salty soul on major labels, then his taste for kinetic avant-garde blues with indie recording corps – all featuring his wild, wiry emotive falsetto voicings – just released “VOYAGE-19,” culled from August 2020 sessions remotely recorded with musicians of all style and stripe in very real-time.
Featuring old friends such as Madison McFerrin, Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper, Nick Hakim, Tariq Khan and more, the all-together too brief EP tells a prose-centric tale of struggle and loss, not only in its righteous lyrics, but in its painfully expressive musicianship.