Album Review: Sons of Kemet – ‘Your Queen is a Reptile’ \\ Diasporic beats charge against the hierarchy
Sons of Kemet don’t shy away from sharing views on the political and societal status quo; the title of their third LP, Your Queen Is A Reptile, disregards the reigning UK monarch as a fork-tongued shapeshifter. They put it to us and we can’t help but smirk, especially in the light of the imminent arrival of a royal baby and wedding that are bound to be excessively hyped while us mere mortals continue to eek out a survival as austerity drags on. Their cutting edge sounds are as sharp as their wit. Tenor sax player Shabaka Hutchings leads bandmates Theon Cross (tuba), Eddie Hick and Tom Skinner (drums) in a move to Impulse Records, sharing ground with some of their predecessors, like John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, to whom The Sons doff to their caps.
Each track shines a torchlight on African and Caribbean heroines – Hutchings’ ‘alternative queens’ – presenting odes to the likes of Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis and Doreen Lawrence, who all receive a deserved salute. First track in, My Queen is Ada Eastman, and we’re hearing the stark quadraphonics of the young British experience, purposefully swerving disenfranchisement and providing verbal daggers to the establishment. As we move through the LP it’s representing jazz in its ethos of subversion and Grime in its posture and verbosity.
Diaspora beats frame Hutchings’ adept tenor as its sidewinding line connects an earthy ancestral link to the past with an improvised feel through their compositions. The tunes represent Hutchings’ diverse background (UK born, Barbados raised) and the breadth of what the name-checked ‘Queens’ have brought to us, expressed through the pace and synergy we’ve come to expect from this syncopated squad. Peers readily associate and collaborate: Congo Natty and Nubya Garcia happily lending and blending their dub and jazz vibes.
Shabaka, literally and metaphorically, stands tall among his peoples. He and his various projects encompass the multiple facets of being creators and appreciators of arts in the UK and its capital. It’s this that’s got the jazz world bending in our direction like sunflowers because he be blazing hot like the sun right now. Your Queen raises that temperature.
EZH | Lorna Cole