Photo courtesy of the artist

MusicSummer of Blacker Love

psychedelic rock trio vôdûn reclaims west african spirituality

June 4, 2019
488 Picks

Vôdûn presents a magical fusion of two things near and dear to me: West African culture and hard metal. Inspired by the lush, diverse landscapes of that portion of the continent and the mysticism of the Fon people of Benin, Vôdûn captures the essence of a people and translates it into musical gold. Introduced to the voodoo religion through spiritual practitioner Lol Olafisoye, lead singer Chantal Brown is all about reclaiming the religion she has, like me, been separated from by colonialism, enslavement, and the whitewashing of history.

Contrary to what the white patriarchy would have us believe, other cultures, like those found in West Africa, have pro-women traditions and feminist influences that portray women as gods and priestesses. “People have tried to demonize it for centuries,” says Brown. “It was the culture of a people who have been oppressed, killed off and enslaved. There’s more to it than sticking pins in dolls.”

Why is it that in the Western world, spiritual ‘possession” is considered demonic or sinister when “catching the holy spirit” is seen as pure spiritualism? It’s because in the context of white Christianity, possession is A-O.K. And I’ll admit, as a Black atheist who grew up with the white man’s Christianity, voodoo is a practice I didn’t believe I could access — let alone one that I had a birthright entitlement to explore. Until I heard Vôdûn tap into these traditions through their music.

“This is my heritage, and I’m reclaiming it from years of racist caricature,” she says. “I was born in France, to American parents, and brought up in Brixton, immersed in West African and West Indian culture. This is my identity; I want to celebrate it.”

Whether you’re of West African heritage or not, Vôdûn will open your eyes to a mystical world all of its own, celebrating the deities and customs of voodoo ritual with spectacular flare.