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.
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