ìfé’s oya tribute is afro-house as truth-telling

December 6, 2018
655 Picks

Led by the drummer/producer/singer/Yoruban priest Otura Mun, ÌFÉ is a loose collective that synthesizes electronic music with the rhythmic and spiritual culture of the Black Atlantic, bringing Afro-Caribbean traditions into a sonic Now.

Performed in both Spanish and English, the Puerto Rico-based project’s excellent 2017 debut, IIII+IIII (pronounced ejiogbe), explored spaces that could be called hip hop and house, but carried with voices steeped in devotional singing and electronic treatments. Musical marriages of old souls and new technology rarely get this deep or this earthy.

On the surface, “The Tearer (Bembe),” the first new music from ÌFÉ in over a year, is both a continuation of that mission and more straight-forward. It is a wicked, percussive Afro-house track whose lyrics nod to both the diaspora and towards social activist mores. But it also celebrates the energy of Oyá, the Yoruban goddess of storms and guardian of the cemetery gates, who brings forth transformation, reminding us that from chaos and destruction comes rebirth. “I wanted to write about uncontrollable change,” says Mun. “Our smallness in the face of life’s only certainty. Sooner or later, she always comes.”

The animated video is a tribute to Storm, X-Men’s Black female heroine, who was in many ways a comic-book interpretation of Oyá. It also purposefully brings to mind the recently departed Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics.

“I actually finished the final ‘Tearer’ edit a day before Stan Lee passed away,” says Mun, who directed the clip. “The video is really a reflection on the worldview put forth by Stan and the Marvel writers, in that the heroes of this world represent the best of our moral character, struggling for the good and just treatment of ALL forms of life. The Uncanny X-Men was my favorite monthly comic book as a young reader, and Storm was probably the first Black super hero that I was exposed to. Storm’s character aligns quite closely with the attributes of the Yoruban orisha Oyá.”