New Internationalist


November 2002

nyone who maintains that rock music has lost its political edge would be advised to check out Nommo, an album that balances passion with deft musical dexterity and still never loses sight of twin goals: education and entertainment.

Nommo, the album makes clear, is a process. A quote from the black radical philosopher Angela Davis explains it succinctly. In West African traditions, to name things – the nommo of the title – is a way to gain power, to begin to assert control over life. For Slovo, a band created by former Faithless guitarist Dave Randell, the nommo is a way of manipulating sound material – the album weaves a subtle fabric of rap, ambient samples taken from Gaza City, NYC and elsewhere with gently focused guitar work – to political ends.

Want to know how many countries the US has bombed since 1945? ‘21 Today’ is a musical list using the most simple tactic: human voices. ‘Saaba’ – from the Arabic word for ‘hard’– juxtaposes the voice of an elderly Palestinian with street sounds and quiet, emphatic music. The sudden segué into ‘Frank & Harry’ with its samples of shopping-channel promises (‘magic every time’) is a brutal reminder that mass entertainment would rather not be reminded of discrimination, poverty, loss.

These images are meant to shock, but there’s hope. Quiet songs – one using Woody Guthrie’s poem ‘Voice’ in both Kurdish and English – never lose sight of this. An album that takes global music to address what’s happening on the globe? That’s real progress.

Louise Gray

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 351 This column was published in the November 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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