ALBUM REVIEW: Shafiq Husayn – “En’ A-Free-Ka”

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Upon playing Shafiq Husayn’s debut solo LP “Shafiq En A-Free-ka” to my 65 year old father (possibly the world’s oldest Sa-Ra fan) his first reaction was, “This isn’t Sa-Ra, is it?” Shafiq whether intentionally or naturally has departed from the “Sa-Ra” sound. A unique sound trademarked half a decade ago when Sa-Ra burst through our speakers with the aptly named “Glorious.” A lo-fi playalistic exploration into digital psychedelia, creating a sonic palette that’s instantly recognisable to its fans.

Shafiq Husayn is an artist in his own right, with a career reaching back to the early nineties, with work with Hip Hop legends Ice-T and Lord Finesse. As well as the obvious word associations from the title “A-Free-Kah”, “Kah” is a Kemet (an ancient Egyptian language) term meaning soul. The idealistic concept of soulful music without boundaries or rules is definitely attempted and arguably achieved. Fusing the dexterous song-writing skills of himself and his collaborators (Bilal, Ty & Kory, Fatima and Sonny Coates to name a few), and his own inimitably distinctive production style. Crunching distorted drums of his trusty SP-1200 (the go to drum machine of nineties Hip Hop), blending seamlessly with the strings of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and friends.

The arresting drum break percussed with the grunts of James Brown on “The U.N. Plan”, combine with the uplifting harmonies of Ty & Kory (an underrated soul duo residing in California), to bring instant memories of The Sounds of Blackness’ nineties hit “Optimistic.” Elsewhere, on “Love Still Hurts” Shafiq crafts a vibe reminiscent of seventies European film soundtracks, typified by such greats as Ennio Morricone. Accompanying a 7-piece string and horn section with vintage synthesizers and the berimbau (a single stringed Brazilian percussion instrument), to a stirring effect.

Shafiq Husayn is not the first musical auteur with ambitions of soulful music without boundaries. Many have tried and failed with good intentions. Although I fear this LP will not reach the wide audience it deserves, it has every right to be mentioned as a classic amongst its peers.

En’ A-Free-Ka is out now (K7/Plug Research).

Reviewed by Will Heights

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