Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Safi Abdullah - Another One Gone (1979)




Artist: Safi Abdullah
Album: Another One Gone
Label: Shanachie
Genre: Reggae: World Fusion
Release Date: 1979
Mood: Afrocentric, Fiery, Spiritual, Marching

Rating: *****

This post is less a review than an internet source for information on a forgotten artist and a superb album. To quote the biography as provided by Shanachie in the inner sleeve:

"The music of Safi Abdullah is at once a progressive bridge to the entire pan-African music universe and also strongly rooted in musical tradition. His unique blend of reggae, soca, African music and funk reflects his own wide-ranging experience as a citizen of the world.
Safi Abdullah was born Stuart Bennett in Jamaica. He started playing drums as a youth in Maypen, later joining respected bandleader Lyn Taitt in his Comets band. A stint as resident session drummer at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One put him at the heart of the exploding Jamaican music scene as it generated such new styles as ska, rocksteady and ultimately reggae; working on recordings by the Wailers, Heptones, Alton Ellis and other soon-to-be legendary stars afforded an extraordinary opportunity to develop as a musician. Freelance work with other producers such as Lee "Scratch" Perry, Bunny Lee, and Prince Buster led to work with Tommy McCook and The Skatalites through the mid-sixties. Safi then formed a band with such top musicians as Larry McDonald, Keith Sterling, Boris Gardner and Willie Lindo with whom he performed until 1968 when he traveled to the United States to work with Eartha Kitt.
Arriving in America in 1968 plunged Safi Abdullah into an intense revolutionary political climate. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and saw action in Vietnam from 1969 through 1971. After discharge, work with such top American r 'n' b groups as the Moments and Archie Bell and the Drells yielded an inside look at the American pop scene. Moving to Montreal, he formed a band with his former mentor, Lyn Taitt before moving back to the U.S. for university studies. In 1979, Safi Abdullah recorded his first solo work, "Fatherless Children", an innovative mixture of soca, reggae and African rhythyms; an updated version appears on this album; it's trenchant. This experience social commentary seems ever more timely. His next recording "Afrika is Burning" fused afrobeat, reggae, soca, and disco in an angry anthem which happened to also be great dance music; it was an underground club hit in discos on both the West and East Coast, as well as in several European countries.
After touring Europe from 1981-1982, Safi traveled to Dakar, Senegal, where he enrolled in the University of Dakar and absorbed African culture firsthand. This experience led him to convert to Islam, taking the Muslim name Safi Allah Abdullah.
"Another One Gone" is an explosive tour of the pan-African musical universe using reggae as a base. Classic Jamaican rhythms are used and re-shaped, their affinity with African and other Caribbean rhythms revealed by clever interpolations. Always Safi Abdullah's singing is urgent, passionate, even anguished as he sings of the material and spiritual corruption which keeps humanity from a higher, more fulfilling existence."


That mini bio is a pretty great summary of the sound of this album, and there is little more to add to make a sufficient description. The first and second tracks ("Afrika is Burning" and "Another One Gone") are the strongest here, but Abdullah's song craft is consistently strong throughout. His lyrics are afrocentric, revolutionary, and on the very edge of any political spectrum. "Selfish Desires" is an analysis of the symbols on the U.S. dollar bill, featuring free masonry and other conspiracy-based readings. Other songs are more a reflection of Abdullah's faith than radical mind set, such as "Song for Jah". Bizarre genre clashes are abound, such as the instrumental "Requiem for Dolphy". Safi Abdullah dedication to the avant-garde jazz musician is intepreted as a 80's dancehall riddim overlayed with a low quality electric guitar solo and synth horn section. Despite sounding like a train wreck on paper; in the hands of Abdullah, it all sounds great.
  1. Afrika is Burning '89 *****!!
  2. Another One Gone *****!
  3. Fatherless Children *****
  4. Song for Jah *****
  5. Emmanuel Road ****
  6. War Dance ***
  7. Selfish Desires ***
  8. Requiem for Dolphy *****!



(non album version)

3 comments:

  1. great music great vibes! anyway i think that the release date is 1979

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah you're right. Not sure how that happened, probably was looking at the reissue date. Edited it.

    ReplyDelete