Anthony Joseph is a great poet, and I really mean he touches greatness, as a lyricist, educator and philosopher. Born in Port of Spain, Anthony has lived in London since the late 1980s. He’s published four volumes of poetry and a novel, and recently a biography of Lord Kitchener, icon of Trinidadian calypso. I’ve featured his work with Mop Mop in previous podcasts and posts.
Anthony’s new album Time is out today. A collaboration with the brilliant New York-based bassist and singer Meshell Ndegeocello (remember If That’s Your Boyfriend He Wasn’t Last Night..? still so good!) this is a very accomplished album both musically and poetically. Meshell’s arrangements cover many spectrums, from jazz through funk psychedelia, to rapso on the track Kezi (a mix of calypso and rap). The production is silk smooth, but not too much so – there is a roughness on the edges, particularly of Meshell’s bass, which gives the whole adventure just the right kind of 20th century soul vibe.
Recently Anthony and Meshell curated a Deezer playlist of inspirations for the album. On the list, The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, as you might expect. Also Nina Simone, Mulatu Astatke, Sun Ra, and Morocco’s amazing Majid Bekkas. The range of inspirations and influences speaks large. It’s a roots album, both in a musical and poetic sense. Anthony reaches back for inspiration for his poetry, digging deep into explorations of connection and disconnection, diaspora and belonging, the long journey of the African spirit and the sense that this is the spirit in all of us, no matter where our genes or generations ended up. From revolutionary stories to the quiet (and no-so-quiet) revolutionary lives of women – including the moving track Girl With A Grenade inspired by Malala Yousafzai.
Tamarind is a beautifully emotional study of a woman walking along the street being watched by the men (you know this one ladies?!) and the complicated story behind her fierce front. The things we do not see. The struggles that lie behind all faces. This poetically, is Anthony’s real strength, finding the stories that every person has, empathising with those stories, linking those experiences to the general human experience of life and, importantly, finding the joy in all the colours of living. The video for this great track was directed by Julien Bittner, shot at Marché aux Puces (Paris St Ouen) in late January:
Another favourite is the track Archeology. Digging into the human journey from Africa to the Americas, following the flow of oceans and us, teaching unity through connection, with utterly profound insights.
“They knew that if you threw a stone from Sierra Leone, it would bloom into islands.”
The first single from the album, Hustle To Live, reads like a classic conscious soul track, sparse spoken word and muted bass. Following the stories of immigrants who work hard now for a future dream, something which Anthony says is a lie, that you’ve got to live your dream now. Vive!
Some short videos on Anthony’s website introduce this among other tracks and the ideas behind:
After teasing us all for a couple months the album is now available to buy and download at iTunes - or in physical form from Anthony’s website.
If you love spoken word, if you love conscious spoken word, if you love conscious spoken word you can dance to, hell, if you love conscious spoken word you can dance to on a hot evening with the windows open and the volume dial up high, go get this!