Album Review: Soothsayers – Tradition [Wah Wah 45s; June 2018]

Tradition was released on the Wah Wah 45s label in June 2018 by South London based Soothsayers, traditionally renowned for their modernised 1960s afrobeat and contemporary jazz fusion mashups, coupled with big band brass sections and cutting-edge vocal harmonies. Ironically though, Tradition is far from traditional. Idris Rahman’s lyrical themes are largely fuelled by a time of political turbulence, media manipulation, and a government accountable for the decaying infrastructure of the twenty-first century.

Tradition is something of a warm sonic blanket of human expression, which we so desperately require in these times. And whilst its rhythm and lyrical content may be tremendously comforting, an invasion of rebellious brass instrumentation confidently announce themselves throughout the entirety of the album.

Without a doubt, Tradition is an impressive use of studio wizardry. The quintessential ‘dubbing’ of sounds and emphasised bass riffs below blazing brass sections are plentiful. Soothsayers kick off the collection with their title track ‘Tradition’, an evidently not so traditional dub-reggae/jazz number, although there are elements.

In light of its politically disrupted underlay, “Tradition”, as well as its proceeding tracks, harnesses the sound of spirit, a communication of love, and a declaration of the highest order, and an extensive use of echo on vocals dropping in and out of the mix achieves the harsh, lo-fi lifeblood of the traditional 1980s dub – reggae sound quality. ‘Tradition’, ‘Good Vibration’, ‘Overcome’, ‘Watching the Stars’ featuring Julia Biel, and the rest of the album in fact, in all its integrity, is a celebration of life!

Evidently inspired by the spirituality and political philosophies of Fela Kuti’s ‘Sleepwalking (Black Man’s Cry)’ courtesy of previous albums, Speak To My Soul for instance, it is heavily rooted within the afrobeat tradition, although this album scarcely delivers much of this. Two singularly respected composers from which inspiration is potentially drawn are Hugh Masekala, among other Afro-jazz trumpeters and distinguished world groovers, and Ebo Taylor’s Love and Death. Fortunately for Soothsayers, whilst ahead of the times, they have acquired the ability to revolutionise original sounds with gripping new studio enhancements and unusual pioneering perspectives, which the album delivers in abundance.