shabaka and the ancestors ascend on “go my heart, go to heaven”

January 31, 2020
112 Picks

Over the course of his relatively brief but highly influential career as a bandleader, the London-based horn player Shabaka Hutchings has integrated many purposeful ideas into his numerous projects. Shabaka And the Ancestors, a collaboration with a collective of South Africa musicians which kicked off with the marvelous 2016 album, Wisdom of the Elders, is Hutchings’ most overt attempt to express the spiritual concerns of improvisational music of the African Diaspora — specifically, SA’s rich tradition of gospel melody, community outspokenness, and jazz power — in the context of today’s world.

The triumph that is the Ancestors’ upcoming album, We Are Sent Here By History, is prefaced by “Go My Heart, Go To Heaven,” a rendition of a South African church song that is, according to vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu (of Brother Moves On), “about the point where one gives in, and wants out of this world.” Built around Ariel Zamonsky’s elastic bassline and a very simple but beautiful melody played in tandem by Hutchings’ tenor and Mthunzi Mvubu’s alto saxophone, while Mthembu solemnly repeats the song-title in Xhosa, before ending on a sobering humanist thought: “Akhukho Ukhuphumula (There isn’t any rest).” This is a groove-based meditation about where the soul goes, with no easy answers. And the akinola Davis-directed video matches that mood, taking inspiration from Us (and maybe the brainwashing scenes of A Clockwork Orange) to visually address questions of being trapped in a world that that is most definitely not “home.”

Shabaka And The Ancestors’ We Are Sent Here By History drops on Impulse! in mid-March