I was a massive fan of Romare’s Meditations of Afrocentrism when it was released back in 2012. At the time I was taking a literature module at University that focused on the works of Toni Morrison but that introduced me to a whole load of African American literature and culture that I had previously been unaware of. It was perhaps for this reason that I enjoyed songs like The Blues (It began in Africa) so much.
According to the Ninjatune website Romare studied African American Visual Culture at University, which is where he came into contact with the work of Romare Bearden, an African American Collage artist.
The musician was so inspired by the visual artist’s work and the techniques that he employed that he ended up using the name Romare as his own artist moniker. He also adopted a production style that can easily be compared to a collage artist’s methods.
Romare takes samples from a rich variety of audio sources and smudges them together into an ambulant, groove ridden collage of sound that many would attempt to classify as House or even Footwork.
However, although lots of his tracks do feel like they were designed for the dance floor, I can’t help but feel that this description doesn’t do the producer justice. For me, Romare’s distinctive sound is designed for living – it takes audio from a variety of sources and threads it together into a patchwork fabric that connects the listener to a larger narrative.
The Love Songs (Part One) Ep is a good example of this. Have a listen to Jimi & Faye (Part One), and listen to how Faye’s storytelling lies at the very heart of the song. Without this emotive focal point, the song would definitely lose its potency!
Enough rambling – let’s talk about Projections! A quick glance at the track list is enough to tell us that Romare has not drifted very far from his source material (song titles like ‘Roots’, ‘Motherless Child’ and ‘Work Song’ demonstrate a clear preoccupation with African American hardship and questions of identity). The producer’s interest in African American culture and the Harlem Renaissance movement provides the album with a thought provoking and distinctive message.
have a listen to this for some context:
The album as a whole takes a more subtle narrative approach than a song like Jimi & Faye, but the blend of bluesy sombreness and shrill, upbeat resilience that lies at the heart of a lot of Romare’s source material undeniably pervades the entire record.
It is for this reason that I like the album so much. It is not another blindly optimistic, overly bright dance album, but a more reflective body of work. Obviously a song like Roots has a kick and bass that could make the right club start throbbing, but the album as a whole is worth listening to in a more everyday context. The footworky Prison Blues is a personal favourite of mine just because of the well sculpted groove that it carves out, but the effective use of sampling instills the song with a sense of depth. Furhtermore, you would be unlikely to find a slower song like Le Petitie Mort on a regular house album! I am not sure that I get the same buzz from the record that I did when I listened to Love Songs (Part One) for the first time, but it is definitely an excellent album that was well worth spending money on!
If you haven’t heard the album – Have a listen and let me know what you think!