Just a Sankofa opinion

I was at Azawi’s Sankofa listening party last week. Much as we listened to the entire album, it was hard making out how the album was at the time.

Thus I believe my first experience with the album was on Monday morning.

There are two ways of consuming an album, one as a person that appreciates music and as a Ugandan.

A successful album for a Ugandan is never coordinated or linear. It usually lacks a soul, feel and depth but most of that will be forgiven if at least 80% of the songs can fit a DJ’s BPM on a Saturday night.

Now appreciating music is knowing that a day has different moods and one shade can’t work for all the moods. It’s knowing that life is not always a party. It’s a rare trait among Ugandans.

Looking at Azawi’s Sankofa with such lenses, African Music, her 2021 album is an album tailored for Ugandans kabisa.

Then there’s Sankofa, unlike African Music which majorly came off as a compilation project rather than an album, this carries itself as an album.

An album is a body of work, there’s usually something that connects the music on an album, of course, there could be three outsider songs on the whole thing but most of the times a big part of it has a connection.

That’s how we are able to say Kenneth Mugabi’s People of the Land is a social commentary, even when it has songs such as Take Me Back or She Said Yes.

This, however, doesn’t mean that everything released from the west as an album is indeed a body of work. They also force compilation projects on people packaged as albums.

Sankofa. It does a better job in its structure and listing. Ticks many boxes of a body of work, especially with the fact that it actually starts and ends. It has an introduction, body and conclusion. Most so-called Ugandan albums and sometimes films don’t offer that.

A number of songs on the album such as Eggali, Brand New, Money, Married Man and Lucky Day, seem personal.

Married Man is the best song on the album thanks to the way she and the team delivered it. Besides it sounding sincere, it has a number of layers brought together, both emotional and production prowess. Whether it will be a hit, that we can wait to see but people will surely be singing about their experience with married men using the song lyrics.

…amulina oba obusabusa.. anytime agenda agenda….

It seems Azawi has actually had more relationship issues than financial ones….

A big part of the other songs on the album are just studio vibes, Harder and Elevated are standouts. The collaboration with Sauti Sol is actually very forgettable, it seems Sauti Sol had already given up by the time the song was recorded.

The problem with Azawi’s Sankofa is that it’s called Sankofa. It’s a Twi word from the Akan Tribe in Ghana. Sankofa is a deep concept about bringing back something from the past. The concept is centred around bringing back things that are at risk of being left behind or forgotten.

Sometimes Sankofa is used to explain reclaiming what was taken away. Say, if Uganda woke up and exclusively started referring to Lake Victoria as Nalubaale or River Nile as Kiyiira, that would be a Sankofa moment.

By calling the album Sankofa, it was easy for one to imagine the album was going to bring back or reclaim something musical. Yet at the end of the day, a big part of the music on the album is just vibes, futuristic and personal lyrics.

On any day this album sounds like a ‘Yours Sincerely’ kind of album, those ones where people technically write a love letter to the fans or themselves…

Was there a Sankofa moment? Probably the collaboration with Konshens! Seeing that Azawi started out as a cover artiste whose stage name was Zedz. She did a lot of Konshens covers, maybe the collaboration was a way of her reclaiming the voice of Zedz that Azawi took away from Zawedde… and let’s face it, dancehall is almost at the verge of being forgotten.

Maybe that was the Sankofa moment by mistake.

For a big part of the project it just feels like Sankofa was just forced onto the whole thing, unapologetically slapped onto it. In fact, the biggest mistake as a listener is knowing what Sankofa means, it’s a disservice.

Overall, Sankofa is a good project, easy on the ears, some songs don’t have a replay value but do those things matter anyway?

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Written by Kaggwa Andrew (1)

Ugandan Arts and Culture Journalist. Film and theatre enthusiast. Photojournalist.

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