Thursday, September 27, 2012

Orits Williki | Mubalamumbe

Listen to "A Way We A Go Do"

Get it all here.

In the contentious field of contemporary American poetry, nothing is ever as hotly contested as issues around identity and self-expression. I believe this, in part, having been involved in a particularly public, at times brutal debate around this poem in 2006.

But American poetry is hardly the only arena in which ideas and expressions of identity can be cause for controversy. In Orits Williki's case, his claim to Ethiopian roots is, in his home country of Nigeria, a cause for ridicule--not that I personally understand why that should be so. (Read more about this here.)

What strikes me as odd in this case is that no similar questioning seems to arise around Williki's decision to use reggae as the musical vehicle for his social/religious protest songs. His claim to having Ethiopian roots seems perfectly reasonable, especially after reading the interview above; it is in his use of reggae wherein he is, literally, adopting a cultural persona.

That, of course, is what I would argue makes his music remarkable--more interesting, I would argue further, than a measurable percentage of "legitimate" contemporary reggae. And not simply because it is an example of someone playing with identity, but because the music, at least on this particular album, is good enough that it makes me genuinely excited about the genre. 

I found this gem at an African grocery store in a southwestern suburb of Dallas this weekend while on the way to a Vietnamese restaurant that had been highly recommended. Though the pho was merely so-so, accidentally finding this treasure on the way more than made up for it.

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