Release Date: 22nd April 2023
Recorded live at the Barbican during last year’s London Jazz Festival, White Juju is award-winning British saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch’s powerful new work for jazz quartet and symphony orchestra, written in response to lockdown, BLM, British history and the culture wars. The album melds Kinch’s distinct approach to jazz and hip hop with classical music—it draws broad inspiration from European folklore, the African Diaspora and divisive national myths to create a uniquely contemporary tone poem.
In many ways, 2020 gave us all the opportunity to see our lives from a fresh perspective. From appreciating the natural world, to reassessing our work life balance and de-cluttering our homes, the nation began an overwhelming cleanse. A summer of racialised police violence, the murder of Sarah Everard and discussions around ‘essential’ workers meant the nation was beginning to draw causal links between, racism, misogyny, class and environmental degradation. This reassessment, contrasted starkly with government mismanagement, disinformation and a noisy and disorientating culture war—all provided rich inspiration for Kinch’s work, White Juju.
Towards the end of the first lockdown, Kinch visited Liverpool, Salford, Hull and Cardiff with a small group of musicians and dancers, staging a socially distanced version of The Black Peril as an online festival. As he walked the streets, then denuded of pedestrians, he was immediately struck by imperial emblems, flags and statues in these British port cities—innumerable mock Elgin marbles, Queen Victoria statues, Union jacks and military monuments that, in the previous bustle of city life, went relatively unnoticed.
“It fascinates me how we’re all acquainted with an unspoken architectural and symbolic language of power” says Kinch. “How do these monuments or myths affect how we see ourselves as a nation? Naming the piece White Juju deliberately inverted ideas of the ‘savage’ or primitive. Perhaps the bizarre fetishes and obsessions of a cult religion are more visible in modern Britain than third world countries.”
A big facet of Kinch’s music is the presence of humour, and through White Juju he invites listeners to join him in poking fun at these hypocrisies as he confronts awkward truths about a nation, but also to feel the catharsis of being truly freed from a spell.
The vinyl iteration of the album includes two coloured vinyl discs, one red and one yellow. The striking cover artwork is by the Artist and Illustrator, Sophie Bass, who designed the cover of Soweto’s last album, The Black Peril. The gatefold cover includes detailed notes from Soweto Kinch about the work.