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Ancient Africa represents Nat Birchall’s official follow-up to last year’s universally acclaimed Mysticism of Sound. Nat once again plays all the instruments here, tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, bass, drums and percussion. But this time around the Korg synth is replaced by piano as Nat wanted to utilise a more “classic” Jazz sound to express his musical visions. He has also arranged the songs for multiple horns, with melodies and harmonies played by up to five different instruments to achieve a fuller and often glorious sound. An exception to this is Mirror Mind, a ‘duet’ featuring tenor saxophone and piano, hence the title.
With most of his compositions Nat tends to come up with titles depending on the thoughts or images the music manifests within him as he listens back to the recording. The title track conjures up images of an African sunrise, the horns perhaps invoking the sun as it begins to illuminate the land which was the origin of the human story on Earth. “Africa is the root of everything, and is the source of civilization, art, music, you name it.”
Paladins is so titled for the African heroes of the past and the present, in all walks of life, social, political, the arts etc. “Anyone who fights against oppression, whether it be through activism or art, not only in Africa but throughout the whole diaspora, is a Paladin in my book.”
Song for John Blanke is named for the African trumpeter who played in the court of Henry VIII. The horn line sounding a little like a fanfare, but in a lower register than the Tudor trumpets might have played for the court of the king!
Malidoma is named in honour of the African writer Malidoma Patrice Some. His excellent book ‘Of Water and The Spirit’ is a deeply moving and illuminating narrative of his life’s journey. From his abduction by Jesuit priests at an early age from his village in Burkina Faso to his being reunited with his people and subsequent assignment to spread his people’s ancient knowledge to the Western world.
The final song, Ancestral Dance, is a musical reminder to both celebrate life as and when the occasion demands, but also to not forget where we came from, as individuals and as a species.