Days and nights in London are rarely without rain, and brightening up the gray skies is a group called Sons of Kemet. The band, comprised of four has been making a name for themselves in the post-jazz scene since around 2011. While their own Shabaka Hutchings admits there are “constantly kinks to iron out,” he notes that what’s great about it, is the fact that they’re always moving forward with their sound.
With a name born from reading kemetic literature and the moniker of a Nubian king that reigned over Ancient Egypt, there was no doubt in Shabaka’s mind that when he and the rest of the guys came together, that their band name would have a northern African influence. Although they’ve never played there physically, Sons of Kemet has spawned a sound tapping into a deeper world connection and one could easily think they either formed on the Caribbean shores or in the middle of New Orleans. While the Big Easy was never home, Shabaka did grow up in Barbados, which has its own mecca of rhythms.
He noted, “I grew up in the Caribbean, so the influence from there is from personal experience. A lot of people have written about the New Orleans connection. I’ve never been there and am not really familiar with the music from there either. I am a big researcher of music from around the African continent though, and my big obsession is trying to look at how micro-musical elements from around the continent have been disseminated throughout the diaspora and encoded within differing contexts. So what people might hear as New Orleans influence could be the brass band traditions of Ghana which I’ve been checking out, or the ’tuk’ music of Barbados which is very similar to fife and drum music from Southern America.”
Going back to the diaspora, there was a lot of that on Sons of Kemet’s latest, Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do. Telling the story of being black in Britain and what that’s like hit a certain chord with me as I sat back and remembered being one of the few black kids in an almost all white town growing up. When I mentioned that to Shabaka, he wasn’t surprised and said he’d heard that connection before, and so is the idea of being socially aware.
“I see music as one of the ways the zeitgeist can be chronicled. Sometimes inadvertently so, but the only way to do this is by musicians taking on issues which they hold dear and presenting them to their public. Also, I think it’s important for children of the diaspora not to forget that we have work to do. This work was started by our grandparents and will be continued for generations to follow. It’s both the assimilation of European culture and the projection of African or Afro-diasporic culture in a light of our own choosing.”
“Afrofuturism” — Sons of Kemet
When they aren’t taking on social issues that seem bigger than life and very scholarly, Sons of Kemet can be found playing around London. He informed us that while the post-jazz scene is tight and there’s familiarity there when it comes to artists and fans, his band is moving towards new things, “We’re going through quite an exciting time where a lot of young people who wouldn’t usually say they like jazz are discovering the music of myself and my peers and coming out in force to gigs.”
In October Sons of Kemet was on the road playing festivals and when they had time, they did check out some of the other acts on the bill. Come the new year they’ll be doing more of the same. Shabaka hopes to have their third album recorded by June and if everything comes together financially, they’ll be trying to come stateside before 2017 rolls around.
The members of Sons of Kemet come from different places, but found one another in London and have a sense of purpose to deliver music that draws from all over but really rises above and brings about not only entertainment, but conversation.