Ayanna Witter-Johnson ft. Cleveland Watkiss, “Declaration of Rights”

If Gertrude Stein was around to discuss music in the ‘Mill (a fantastic edition to the Tonemamas btw…) she would’ve probably said: “A genre is a genre is a genre is a genre”. 
To this, today’s featured artist Ayanna Witter-Johnson seems to respond, “…and what exactly is a genre?”

Drawing upon classical, soul and reggae she is the embodiment of when all sounds from every corner of the world collide into a big bang of eclecticism. It’s where magic happens. 
With a single cello and a few voices she’s created a listening adventure in her cover of the Abyssinians’ song, “Declaration of Rights”. Together with Cleve Watkiss, she celebrates Black history, culture and identity, all through a spectacular minimalist arrangement.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Witter-Johnson masterfully plucks, bows, strikes, and throws a whole bunch of razzle and dazzle on the cello strings while her rich and evocative voice sings the powerful, rousing lyrics “Get up and fight for your rights my brothers/ Get up and fight for your rights my sisters/ Took us away from civilization”.
Over Watkiss’ soulful and earthy beat-boxing and exquisitely rich harmonies we are taken on a musical journey where politics and spirit meet in a reggae/soul/classical fusion.
In a popular culture where “more is more” seems to be the main approach to arranging any song, the brilliance of this spare-yet-supberb reigns supreme.

Best listened to while: Being totally undistracted to fully absorb the richness of the music

Listen for this moment: 01:58 when the harmonies and beat-boxing enter the scene and we are locked into the mesmerizing groove

Follow Ayanna Witter-Johnson here

Follow Cleveland Watkiss here

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