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Stabroek News

Five good minutes of 'Africa for the Africans'
published: Wednesday | December 21, 2005

Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer


Scully Simms. - CONTRIBUTED

THE FIRST response to the title, as appropriate, as Garveyesque, as admirable, as it is, could be "so what is a new song about Africa being for the Africans going to contribute? Have we not heard it before?" True. But not like this.

Africa for the Africans, sung and co-written by Scully Simms and produced and arranged by his co-writer, Ra-Umi Alkebu-Lan, is two seconds short of five minutes of repeating, but not repetitive, lyrics over rich, near-riveting music.

Simms is far from his fun falsetto mode that he often employs when performing with regular partner Bunny. His voice is expressive as he sings of his desire for Africa, naming different countries. And it is done in bilingual fashion, with English and Amharic resting comfortably together.

A crash course in Amharic is in order (even if it does sound good without knowing what it means). 'Keber le amlak' means 'respect and honour to the Lord', 'hul gize leamlak lij' is 'always to the son of God' and 'ernest mesegana' is 'we give thanks and praises'. These are among eight Amharic phrases that are utilised throughout Africa for the Africans, as it is often alternated with English.

Harmony plays a strong role in the song (performed by Pam Hall and Kidane Mwyiner) and at one point the lead vocals go and 'anywhere' is repeated thrice followed by 'we want to reach' to very good effect.

The music is well arranged, beginning with a saxophone (Dean Fraser), then guitar, percussion and drums coming in that short order, before Simms says "Africa is where we belong, yes" and the harmonies begin.

There is a genuine bass drum in Africa for the Africans, bingie-style bass drum, which hits very hard but is not overpowering.

Musicians on the project are Aubrey 'Prince' Manning on drums; Christopher Meredith on bass; Ansel Collins on piano, organ and keyboard; Mitchum 'Khan' Chin on rhythm and lead guitar; Simms plays funde; Christopher 'Sky Juice' Burt plays congos and Uzziah 'Sticky' Thompson is on grillo, with Dean Fraser on saxophone.

The overall effect is a slow but not sonorous, sincere-sounding desire to return to Africa, Simms announcing at one point "leave us there!"

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