Mainly a modern jazz soul singer, Sarah Jane Morris is perhaps most known for her 1980s pop cover of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ with The Communards. Chrissy D has a listen to her latest album, a politically charged project produced in collaboration with musicians including Keziah Jones and Tony Rémy.
When Dizzy Gillespie famously observed that “Mama Rhythm is Africa”, he was talking about the common heartbeat he heard in the music and dance of the New World, South America and the Caribbean, cultures that had been transformed forever in the 18th and 19th centuries by the African Diaspora…
– John Fordham (extract from liner notes for Bloody Rain)
The title track of Bloody Rain has an ambling rhythm and warm instrumental intro, while the ambiguous lyrics make this a song that unsettles as much as it comforts. It sounds like a sad but matter-of-fact goodbye, peppered with hope. This seems to be in keeping with the overall statement in the forthcoming liner notes that Sarah Jane Morris hopes the songs “will lift your spirits”, while anticipating that “some will make you weep”.
With the continent of Africa as the central theme, this 15-track album features a number of African musicians in collaboration. Included are Nigerian singer/songwriter Keziah Jones (‘I Shall Be Released’), the London-based, Zimbabwe-born vocalist Eska (‘Here Comes The Rain’) and Senegal’s Seckou Keita (playing the Kora on ‘Wild Flowers’). Morris bridges different settings through her music and there are also collaborators on Bloody Rain from Europe and South America; many of the tracks showcase input from UK-based guitarist Tony Rémy, while Brazillian Adriano Adewale features on percussion for ‘Wild Flowers’.
Lyrically, Bloody Rain embraces Africa’s splintered history of colonisation in a matter-of-fact manner and attempts to draw on the common human experiences that have grown out of its brutal past. As a charity project teamed up with Annie Lennox‘s SING venture, raising money for their Voice for HIV/Aids Women and Children campaign, the theme of rarely-heard voices runs through every track, with the subjects covered managing to be universal, local and individual all at once.