The definition of the word “lament” is as follows: “a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.”
Kenyan-born, Seattle-based artist Naomi Wachira, chose to title her sophomore album ‘Song of Lament,’ as she felt the music “was born out the many tragic losses we’ve witnessed globally – ranging from cases of police brutality to the refugee crisis – that made me grieve about who we’ve become, but also burned a desire in me to create art that would serve society at large and hopefully lessen the chaos around us.”
A bold, brave and almost brutal statement to describe the birth place of music which is so lovely, calming and touching. The 11-track collection was recorded at Seattle’s historic London Bridge studio, and produced by Eric Lilavois (Saint Motel, Atlas Genius, My Chemical Romance).
The album opens with musical life lesson “Our Days Are Numbered,” with Wachira preaching “learn to be wise, learn to be kind.” The funk and world percussion jumps up a notch for questioning call out “Up In Flames,” then she tackles issues of equality over a sweet reggae beat for “Beautiful Human.” Mournful string accompany her as she attacks the zealots who perpetuate violence in the name of faithful religious expression head on for the pleading ‘Where is God?’ She then shares a tribute to her fallen countrymen for the funeral song “Farwell.” The title track is an homage to mother Africa as well as a strong rebuke of her citizens and the lack of humanity. Wachira delivers words of encouragement on the gently rocking “Run, Run Run,” and the all acoustic choral “Murathimwo,” shifting back and forth between English and Swahili as she gives praise and devotion to her parents.
The crisp and clean production is a focused on the earth-shattering alto of Wachira, who picks up the torch of heroes of afro pop and folk singers Miriam Makeba, Angelique Kidjo, Joan Armatrading, and Odetta. Like her predecesors, Wachira accompanies herself on acoustic guitar which she nimbly strums throughout, guiding her soaring vocal and positioning the ensemble of Dave West (organ/Rhodes); Teo Shantz (drums)’, Masa Kobayashi (bass); Tommy Sandovallegos (percussion); Eric Lilavois (percussion); Owuor Arunga (trumpet)’ and Andrew Joslyn (strings).
It would be so easy to play off Wachira’s ‘Song Of Lament’ as an album of lovely world music wallpaper because the harsh realities of the lyrics are colored by such truly beautiful music, much the way roses carry thorns.