White African Power

31/07/2017Acclaimed Record Producer Ian Brennan Records Breathtaking Album With Tanzania Albinism Collective

Prolific Grammy-winning US record producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project, ZMEI3) is back at it again. For his latest Six Degrees Records-released project Brennan travelled to the remote Tanzanian inland island Ukerewe, accessible only by ferry and known as a refuge for people suffering from Albinism (a genetic condition marked by the complete or partial absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes).

"It is a sad and tragic fact that people living with Albinism in East Africa are hunted and persecuted, based on the belief that their body parts can transmit magical powers & that they are in some way 'demonic.' As a result, they have been killed and dismembered, [and] constantly live in fear."

Together with members of the Standing Voice community, Brennan organised songwriting workshops, encouraging volunteers to "write about their experiences and to express what they wanted others to understand about their existence. But even among the willing, singing-out proved hard within a group that routinely avoided eye contact, rarely spoke above a whisper, and were unaccustomed to dancing."

With time, the music started flowing, bringing themes of loneliness and alienation to the surface. Many of the lyrics are in Kikirewe and Jeeta, dialects officially discouraged and censored, following unification of the country in 1964. As such, "the Tanzania Albinism Collective offers a glimpse into music that comes from the heart and soul of a group of people, who up until now have been almost completely under represented and “unheard.” The resulting album is in turns beautiful, emotional, harrowing, fascinating and mostimportantly, completely 'human'.”

The album's title "White African Power" then, is a reference to those with albinism in East Africa, being called 'White' by their oppressors and thus, a means of empowerment to those, who "have suffered such atrocities and ostracism from birth, yet still manage to endure." Head over to Bandcamp to stream the full album, released in June.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom