Album Review: Renu – You Are Fearless (Tumi Obhoi / তুমি অভয়) [November 2021]

The music of percussionist, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist RENU (Renu Hossain) is a tour de force of experimentation from a maestro craftswoman informed by decades of practice and study by way of the Queer British Asian experience. RENU’s work is skilfully textured and sonically varied, with each new addition to the oeuvre a pleasant surprise and an unexpected yet exhilarating turn into a chasm of cosmic creativity. The latest single Tum Obhoi (You Are Fearless) looks to the past in a bold and defiant leap into the future.

2021 marks 50 years of independence for Bangladesh. 2021 also marks 21 years of RENU who began her musical journey in the year 2000. RENU cut her teeth as a percussionist for the likes of Grace Jones, State of Bengal and other major artists. RENU’s message is somewhat different to male identifying electronic artists — It is Femme, it is Queer, it is POC & it is electronica that is like water — you never know what form it will take on.

‘You are fearless’ (Tumi obhoi / তুমি অভয়) is RENU’s latest release and features Pagla Baul who is a disciple of Lalon Fakir Shah (1774–1890) whose shrine is in Nadia (Specifically in Kushtia in Present day Bangladesh).

The track is a spiritual tour de force and stands boldly over the many Baul and Fakir inspired tracks that have plagued the world in recent years. The vocals are haunting yet omnipotent, with distorted effects that are powerful yet reassuring, like being in the presence of a deity. The balance of force and delicacy which has become a hallmark of RENU’s work is played expertly here and in this writer’s opinion, this track is RENU’s most accomplished and experimental work to date. It takes inspiration from the affirmative cosmology of Sun Ra but is hot-wired for the south Asian diaspora.  RENU describes “Tum Obhoi” as a Baul/Fakir speaking to us from the future/space. The track and its follow up singles are inspired by the experimental and fusion work of Alice Coltrane and the broad modus operandi of the Afrofuturist movement, and whilst these have been present in RENU’s previous work, they come to the forefront with vehemence here.


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