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. Now the band is back with Tangled Roots, an exceptional release that defies standard classifications: the West African root that drove 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.
The heart of the band is tenor saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcraft, co-writers and producers of the band’s material. The pair have played with a range of African artists and reggae stars like Junior Delgado, Rico Rodriguez, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Earl 16 and Realworld’s Ayub Ogada, as well as pop acts such as Stereo MCs and Dodgy, and cutting edge jazz groups such as The Zoe Rahman Quartet and Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear. Along with a handful of fellow band members, including guitarist Phil Dawson, who is a regular sideman with ex-Fela collaborator Dele Sosimi and numerous others, a range of special guests keep the music broadly challenging: Nigerian ‘blu funk’ advocate Keziah Jones sings the compelling ‘Freedom,’ Maxi Jazz of soulful dance troupe Faithless crosses the afro-jazz/hip hop border with ‘Instant Hit,’ which reworks an Osibisa classic, Roots Manuva’s reggae singer Rikki Rankin spices up the superb ‘Never Give Up’ while the 419ers’ mix of ‘Follow Your Path’ breaks new ground. Firming up links with Africa are several tracks led by Nigerian vocalist/percussionist Adesose Wallace, a veteran of AfroCelt Sound System, as well as contributions from renowned South African guitarist Lucky Ranku, kora player Mosi Condi and upcoming ‘Chimurunga Soul’ singer Netsayi Chigwendere, while Julia Biel’s guitarist and F-IRE Collective member Jonny Phillips ensures the music has extra melodic texture.
The result is an extraordinary album by a highly talented and multifaceted band. Tangled Roots may prove to be the album of 2006.
Reviews of Tangled Roots:
"Virtually every track on this energetic and energising set is groove-heavy and club friendly with stabbing Afrobeat basslines and plaintive dub rhythms a consistent feature throughout" Kevin Le Gendre, Echoes (March 06)
"A heady sonic brew.....this album is full of irresistably funky grooves, intricate percussion, virtuoso vocals, elaborate guitar lines and swinging horns, with meaningful lyrics and uncommon vocal arrangements raising the standard one level higher" David Katz, Mojo (Feb 06)
"Soothsayers, now occupying more firmly the terrain of Afro-Dub with occaisioanl forays into funk and high-life, have engaged a series of terrific vocalists, among them Keziah Jones and Maxi Jazz. The arrangements are well-structured and clearly aimed at the club rather than the jazz dive." Sholto Byrnes, Independent (Jan 06)
"The strongest influence is Fela, his blasting horns and the characteristic call and response style vocals, chunky guitars. But this is all tangled up with a very contemporary feel.... This collective is definitely something to look out for: a group of musicians with their individual sounds and influences coming together to record doesn’t happen much these days and is a real challenge to get right. And Tangled Roots is proof that they have" Lydia Martin FLY (Jan 06)
"'Instant Hit' with Maxi Jazz of Faithless is pure poetry - a trip hop gem channeling some of Tricky and Massive Attack's dub flavours into a swirling Afro-Jazz haze" Tom Barlow, Jazzwise (Dec 05)
"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..." Jamie Renton, Froots (Dec 05)
"The whole disc represents a major step forward for one of the hardest working and most creative groups on the scene" Straight No Chaser (Dec 05)