Soothsayers
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Soothsayers

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"4 star live review, the Guardian"

Soothsayers are an eight-piece British band whose music spans continents. Formed around saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpet player Robin Hopcraft, they deliver a heady mix of township jazz, dub reggae and funk. Their music is infused with an African flavour and propelled by some seriously infectious dance floor-oriented grooves. In Derby, Rahman and Hopcraft started with blaring unison riffs that quickly broke apart into a thrilling harmony. A barrage of clattering rhythm followed, courtesy of kit drummer Arnaud Delafosse and percussionist Richard Ajileyes. This opening salvo evolved into a Theme from Shaft-style funk tune, with sassy horns drawling over Alan Weekes's wah-wah guitar. Led by a persistent bass hook, the second song had a more liquid groove, with Ajileye providing jungle noises beneath Hopcraft's muted trumpet. Rahman began to enjoy himself, grinning and swaying, then raised his saxophone and began a soulful dialogue with Hopcraft. Both demonstrated impeccable technique, Hopcraft indulging in speeding flurries of notes, while Rahman surged and honked his way up through the lower registers and off into the stratosphere. As the evening gathered momentum it became clear that the band had every base covered. A throbbing dub tune was overlaid with gleaming Cuban-style trumpet, and this was followed by a Fela Kuti-ish Afro-beat jam ushered in by a cacophony of raucous free jazz. Latin rhythms dove tailed into thrusting American funk, but the spirit of Africa was pervasive. Djembe player Adesose Wallace joined Rahman and Hopcraft in some goose bump-inducing call-and-response singing, and the cross-rhythms became intricately layered. With some tunes swelling into trance like mega-jams, it would have been easy for the musicians simply to lock into auto-pilot. Resisting the temptation to cruise, they pushed themselves into unexplored areas of harmonic and rhythmic territory. Soothsayers may be an excellent funk party band, but their improvisatory skills will endear them to lovers of hard driving jazz. With public consumption of world music ever on the increase, their impressively authentic African vibe shouldn't go amiss, either. - the guardian


"4 star tangled roots review, All about jazz"

In the years since Fela Anikulapo Kuti's death—and truth be told, for much longer than that, because Kuti's music was increasingly overwhelmed by personal problems and political repression from the mid-1980s on—it has seemed more and more unlikely that we would ever hear top-dollar, flowering-top, kick-the-door-in Afrobeat again.

The golden age of the music was roughly 1973-76, when Kuti recorded a whole string of iconic albums (Gentleman, Alagbon Close, Expensive Shit, Johnny Just Drop, Everything Scatter, Yellow Fever, Zombie, Kalakuta Show) which he never bettered (although 1979's Vagabonds In Power and 1981's Coffin For Head Of State got close) and which later Afrobeat stylists have never replicated. As a bandleader, totemic dissident, polemicist and lyricist, Kuti was so inextricably hard-wired into the music that he himself came to define it—and sometimes it felt like A-list Afrobeat had died with him.

Until, perhaps, now. The aptly named Tangled Roots, the second album by the London-based Soothsayers collective, is a five-star, in-the-tradition, establishment-challenging, cross-bred monster, one for all the original sufferheads still out there and one for a new generation too. It will feed your head and thicken your blood and might even bring down the walls of Jericho.

Part of Soothsayers' genius has been to retain the raw simplicity and drive of Kuti's original creation, while grafting on some of the most beautiful black and African musics that have since coexisted alongside it, including most prominently conscious reggae, dub, mbalax, jonkonu, funk, hip-hop and jazz. Most of the core characteristics of Afrobeat are present—the loping beat, long-line riffing horns (the album is co-produced by tenor saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter David Hopcraft) and lyric upfulness—strengthened and enriched by the cross-pollinations.

Another magic spell is cast by the singers. From the Afrika 70-ish vibe of Adesose Wallace (featured on the four most Kuti-esque tracks) through the jazz-meets-hip-hop rapoetry of Maxi Jazz (”Instant Hit”), the roots reggae style of Rikki Rankin (”Never Give Up”) and the gorgeous intimacy of chimurenga soul singer Netsayi Chigwendere (”We Must Return,” “Love And Money”), the quality of the voices—and the positivism of the lyrics—are a continual source of delight.

Tangled Roots will inevitably be called nu Afrobeat, and anyone who ever enjoyed Afrika 70 or Egypt 80 will likely love it madly (as, almost certainly, would Kuti himself). As Adesose Wallace advises in original Kuti style-o, in his deep, resonant voice over the final moments of closing track, “Follow Your Path,” “Stand firm / Don't allow them to push you around like zombie, yes? / OK.”

A brilliant, affirmative, all-nations masterpiece.





- all about jazz review


"4 star tangled roots review, Mojo"

All to often, "world music fusion" projects fall flat on their faces, appearing as little more than a jumble of pallid imitations dispassionately thrown together. Not so with Soothsayers: here instead is a heady sonic brew, crafted in the best jazz tradition by drawing respectfully from disparate elements. From the Afrobeat of Do You Want To Know and In the Beginning to the laid-back jazz rap Instant Hit and the dubwise soul of We must Return and Never Give Up, this album is full of irresistibly funky grooves, intricate percussion, virtuoso vocals, elaborate guitar lines and swinging horns, with meaningful lyrics and uncommon vocal arrangements raising the overall musical standard one level higher. Guest spots from Roots-Manuva's raggamuffin rapper Rikki Rankin, scat vocalist Maxi Jazz of Faithless fame, plus Anglo-Nigerian bluesman Keziah Jones, round out the picture - Mojo - David Katz


"4 star tangled roots review, jazzwise"

Soothsayers' fusion of Fela Kuti's revolutionary model with homegrown influences pays off on this excellent second album. Led by saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcraft, the band cooks up a convergence between Afro-beat and the street sounds of South-London (dub, soul, reggae and hip hop) with guests from F-IRE collective and beyond.
That the Soothsayers move beyond a mere fascination with Fela is evident on the soulful 'We Must Return' featuring velvety vocals from Netsayi Chigwendere. Meanwhile 'Instant Hit with Maxi Jazz of Faithless is pure poetry - a trip hop gem channelling some of Tricky and Massive Attack's dub flavours into a swirling Afro-Jazz haze. Esewhere, tight, long arrngements and crunching, back-snapping funk patterns infuse the reggae-style 'Never Give Up', whilst 'In the Beginning' revisits more familiar Afro-beat territory. Tangled Roots shows how exciting and diverse things get when you hold a mirror up to London's musical melting pot. - jazzwise - tom barlow


"4 star review of Lost City, Jazz Review"

A vast melting pot of worldly influences from a rag tag band of London-based musicians who are keen to pay homage to to their ancestral and cultural roots- reggae, dub, jazz - funk, highlife, even African township are all embraced - on their debut release. Some of these musicians are familiar like Dennis Rollins, Nick Cohen, and the effervescent Roger Beaujolais. Others, such as trumpeter Robin Hopcraft, are new to me, yet on this showing will undoubtedly become a firm favourite, such is the quality of his performances here. I could wait until the end of this review to give my overall verdict, keep you hanging on in suspense as to my persuasion (get on with it – Ed), but what’s the point? Rarely have I been so impressed by a British debut as this, so totally seduced and utterly smitten by a record from almost the first play that I can’t wait to describe its innumerable qualities. This is good-time music, a dance- your-socks-off worldly carnival of a record that is unrelenting in its quest to delight and enthral the listener. Driven by the dual horns of Rahman and Hopcraft, the collective adopts an organic approach to playing and “Lost City” embodies an infectious highlife groove that sets the tone for much of the material here. Tightly scripted as much of that music was, there is still room here for some individual posturing and Hopcraft takes the honours with some crafty playful licks and phrasing. Rahman too holds his place in the groove, yet cleverly steps outside now and again to make his presnce felt. Yet to concentrate on such individual performances would miss out on the overall effect here. This is a band effort, from the front-line down to the rock solid rhythm section that crosses whole continents at the drop of a (hi) hat. Even the reggae-infused offerings are worthwhile and welcome from this band. Such dabbling between jazz and reggae has met disastrous ends before, yet here they offer hope even to me that such relationships can work. Here the basslines, rather than dominate the proceedings, allow other voices to flourish and flower and as a result become just another piece of the compositional jigsaw. A track such as “Blazing Horns” is allowed to breathe and grow in stature accordingly. Lost City is an excellent debut and one that I just can’t stop playing. All the musicians involved play their hearts out throughout and are clearly driven by a universal desire to explore their cultural heritage whilst playing music they love. Above all, and what makes Soothsayers so appealing, is that it
is done without the slightest hint of self-importance or over- indulgence. - Jazz Review -Will Cray


"4 star lost city review, The Independent"

We've had the Dankworths and the Traceys, Now a new family is emerging. While pianist Zoe Rahman is a rising star on the London scene, her brother Idris has been woodshedding with this band which he co-leads with trumpeter Robin Hopcraft. Strong afro influences, ranging from township to reggae are evident, but the band have one foot firmly in the jazz camp, avoiding the too-many chefs excesses of some world music. Strong performances all round, including from Dennis Rollins on trombone. Please sir, can we have some more? - The Independent - Sholto Byrnes


"4 star tangled roots review, Froots"

As the title of this, their second album, suggests, the members of Soothsayers hail from a variety of cultural backgrounds, but they are united in a love of African music. Afrobeat is their initial point of reference and they can certainly deliver a punchy version of the Nigerian sound, but there are also other influences at play: jazz, funk, dub, rock. And on Tangled Roots they're joined by a posse of guest vocalists, including Maxi Jazz from Faithless, gruff-voiced Ghanain Adesose Wallace (who handles a lot of the Afrobeat tunes), Afro-rocker Keziah Jones and the excellent young UK-based Zimbabwean soul singer Netsayi Chigwendere, whose two contributions are standouts. Beneath all this bought-in talent, the group deliver instrumentally with the horn section of John Telfer, trombonist Marcus Jones and the band's co-leaders Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft booting things along nicely. - froots - jamie renton


Discography

Cd albums: Lost City (2002), Tangled Roots (2006), The Time is Now - (release due in Japan ..June 2008.)
10" Vinyl - Blinded Souls (Quantic and MAd Professor Mixes) , 7" Vinyl - Bad Boys - Soothsayers meets Johnny Clarke.
7" Vinyl - Love Fire - Soothsayers meets Michael Prophet.

Photos

Bio

Soothsayers are a London-based collective that reach far beyond the restrictive clichés of ‘World Music.’ Blending the pulsating rhythms of Afrobeat with the sonic adventurousness of dub reggae and urban jazz, Soothsayers shook up the jaded music scene with their acclaimed debut album, Lost City. They followed this with Tangled Roots, an exceptional release that defies standard classifications: the West African roots music that fired Fela Kuti’s rebellion is filtered through the deeply seductive dub experimentation of Lee Perry, King Tubby and Augustus Pablo, while funk, hip hop and other contemporary elements yield a complex sound firmly lodged in London’s broader musical experience.

Soothsayers is a band brought together by unusual coincidences and, when they hear the music or see a live performance, many say destiny . The main writers and conceptual leaders of Soothsayers, Red Earth Records and the wider Red Earth Collective are Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft. The producers met in the late 1990s while working together as a horn section for reggae producer , Mad Professor. They realised they had similar musical passions and an affinity for each other's playing. They decided to work together and call themselves Soothsayers, a name which suggests something of the deep and mystical power they felt for the music they began to study and create. A chance meeting with the Nigerian elder and artist, musician, master drummer and singer, Adesose Wallace, at a benefit gig for the late Nigerian writer Ken Sarowiwa inspired further collaboration and songwriting. The Fela protege grew up in Sierra Leone and Nigeria where his mother ran the old Afro Spot nightclub in downtown Lagos. In his early days he toured extensively across West Africa with Hugh Masakela and was a regular at Fela's shrine compound. Soothsayers then found themselves bonding with Togolese bass player, Kodjovi Kush. The son of a diplomat and speaker of 10 languages, he was schooled in Israel but has settled in London. Kush, as he is known to his friends, is a long time devotee to Rastafari. Idris' sister, the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Jazz keyboardist Zoe Rahman was incorporated into expanding sound as well as master drummer Patrick Illingworth, whose credits include work with the Cinematic Orchestra, singer-songwriter Sia and groundbreaking dance music act 808 State. The line up was completed by guitarists Phil Dawson, who has worked with many international African stars like Tony Allen and Natasha Atlas, and Derek Johnson whose Dub Asante band back reggae vocalists Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Michael Rose among others.

Soothsayers have become known for their amazing live performances that take the audience on a mystical and exciting, afro funk fuelled , dubalicious journey. Last year fans were treated to memorable performances at Glastonbury festival, Italian roots festival Rotottom , North Sea Jazz Festival and many other events throughout the Uk and Europe. The dynamic live act with thumping grooves, killer horn lines and uplifting vocal melodies has grown ever tighter over the last year making them one of the best live acts on the scene. Soothsayers are able to unify influences from varied genres with a common purpose to create something unique and satisfying. Imagine what might happen if King Tubby and Fela Kuti lived next door to each other in South London in 2008, and you’re getting close to what Soothsayers are all about.

Soothsayers' recorded output includes two albums with worldwide release (“Lost City” and “Tangled Roots”) as well as a recent Japanese release entitled “The Time is Now” which incorporates tracks from these albums as well as new as yet unreleased material. As well as this, Soothsayers’ own label Red Earth Records has released a number of vinyl singles including a successful 10 inch of “Blinded Souls” with remixes by Quantic and Mad Professor, and more recently a 7 inch of “Bad Boys” featuring the legendary Johnny Clarke, and featuring a Manasseh dub on the B side, which is taken from their forthcoming album of dubwise collaborations, which is due for release later this year.
As well as the regular band you will hear an array of guest vocalists on Soothsayers' recordings: the Nigerian "Blu Funk" vocalist and guitarist Keziah Jones features on the funky meltdown "Freedom"; the sublime "Love and Money" presents the beautiful vocals of 'Chimurenga soul' princess Netsayi Chigwendere and Griot Guinean Kora player and singer Mosi Condi floats over the hypnotically dubbed out "We Must Return"; Faithless star Maxi Jazz collaborated very successfully with a darkly humourous commentary on modern fast living “Instant Hit”, which is Soothsayers' own dubbed up version of an old Osibisa classic. More recently, Soothsayers have been working with some of Jamaica’s roots legends including Johnny Clarke, Michael Prophet and Linval Thompson, as well as some rising stars of the British music scene including R