For the latest installment of Okayafrica’s AIYE Mixtape series, poet/rockstar/okayplayer Saul Williams guides us through a personal and eclectic diaspora mixtape. Since he’s far better with the pen, we opted to include Saul’s full explanation of the mix, which is interspersed with vivid recollections of his own introduction to African music. Read on:
… the title comes from Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech which I used in a composition where I sampled the Mauritanian griot in “Beyt Bieh.” Dr. King is explaining why fire hoses didn’t work against us during the Civil Rights struggle saying that the police didn’t realize that we had [burning in us] a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. Then he quips, “We had known water,” which, to me, seemed to be an allusion to the Middle Passage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I’ve included the raw composition along with the Mauritanian source as a sort of bridge between my diasporic reality and the African continent.
In fact, I guess it’s fair to say that my mix begins with a tribute to the middle passage. The first song is a song that has inspired me for years that was written by the South African Miriam Makeba and sung by Nina Simone. It’s followed by “Beyt Bieh” and my tribute to both, those who withstood and those who could not stand the harsh conditions of the voyage from there to here (and now there again) before we arrive in the Congo with one of my favorite groups, The Kasai Allstars. From there we travel from field recordings to studio recordings thru an eclectic mix of songs, chants, and prayers that I’m excited to share. It’s not particularly a dance mix- — a bit too moody and eclectic for that. But if you got a glass of wine, well, hold it up. And if you’re interested in a volume 2, let me know in the comment section below.
Saul’s upcoming book CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape will be available Sept. 4. Catch him on his CHORUS Spoken Word Tour across North America starting in August. Grab tickets and see the full dates. Stream AIYE #23: We Had Known Water Vol. 1 below and download at Okayafrica (tracklist after the jump). Thanks to Underdog for the cover artwork.
“West Wind” Nina Simone (written by Miriam Makeba/South Africa)
“Beyt Bieh” Ensemble El Moukhadrami (Mauritania)
“We Had Known Water” Saul Williams
“Drowning Goat” Kasai Allstars (Congo)
“Mahindi Ya Kulonga” (Tanzania)
“Ishmael” Abdullah Ibrahim (South Africa)
“Forgive Us All” Rob (Ghana)
“Amahamba” Jos Gansemans (Rwanda)
“African Space Craft” Keziah Jones (Nigeria)
Previously on Africa In Your Earbuds: TUNE-YARDS, MATHIEU SCHREYER, BLK JKS, ALEC LOMAMI, DJ MOMA, AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA, PETITE NOIR, OLUGBENGA, RICH MEDINA, VOICES OF BLACK, LAMIN FOFANA, CHICO MANN, DJ UNDERDOG, DJ OBAH, SABINE, BROTHA ONACI, DJ AQBT, JUST A BAND, STIMULUS, QOOL DJ MARV, SINKANE, CHIEF BOIMA.