Sa-Ra is an outfit adorned in eccentricities. The union of artists Om’Mas Keith, Taz Arnold, and Shafiq Husayn has led to the release of two full-length projects as well as a wealth of features and production credits. Their sound is best understood a
s an amalgamation of the indefinable and unbridled. In other words, I have no possible way, with my limited mastery of the English language, to accurately capture everything they do sonically. That I would argue is their greatest gift.
These musical idiosyncrasies do, however, extend beyond the group setting. With each member carrying a certain je ne sais quoi, their solo efforts have also been a mélange of musical complexities. The eponymous Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is oft-cited as the pinnacle of their solo endeavors, but I’ve had the work of Om’Mas running through my musical consciousness as of late.
A recent diet of bossa nova/samba (due, largely in part, to our resident curator, DJ Haylow) has led to explorations rooted in the past and presence, finding strength in modern interpretations of a timeless tradition. Running from Jorge Ben’s “Vem Morena Vem” to Esperanza Spalding’s “Samba em Prelúdio,” I’ve stuck somewhere around a record entitled, “Mistérios.”
A remnant of the Brazilian Tropicália movement of the late 1960s, “Mistérios” is often performed in an acoustic setting, the timbre of a lone guitar developing the lush backdrop. However, for the Red Hot + Rio 2 project, Keith reintroduces the strong African rhythms relevant to that period, constructing a dynamic convergence of two drastically different musical methodologies coming out of that era, birthing something surprisingly original. That’s a lot to take in, but, like the culture itself, the complexities of Keith seem to have no boundaries.
Without understanding the language, we are given a sonic translation in the form of a carefree melody and dense instrumentation. Belying the idea that traditional sounds have no place in the present, Om’Mas Keith presents bossa nova in modernity.
“Um fogo queimou dentro de mim
Que não tem mais jeito de se apagar”
Written By: Paul Pennington