Suede’s “Alkebulan” is an Africa anthem that plays to all the genre’s tropes

This close to greatness but thwarted by lyrical mediocrity

Everyone seems obsessed with Africa these days. It goes from your random roadside busker, all the way up to Beyonce Knowles, whose latest album was heavily influenced by Yoruba culture and whose ‘Push Party” last weekend was ‘African’ themed and featured Fela blasting in the background. With this renewed interest in celebrating Africa, it seems almost kitschy for your first proper single as a recording artist to toe these lines, but Singer and Euphonic signee Suede, does a great job of dipping into the pool without getting himself too wet on his new single “Alkebulan”.

Heavily influenced by the current Afropop sounds ruling the airwaves, sparser clear percussions, subtle wind accents and barely recognizable synths, played up by classic guitar melodies popularized by ‘world music’ performers like Youssou N’dour and Salif Keita. Suede’s voice is clear and he has a natural talent for holding the attention of his audience. “Alkebulan” is a decent song by any metric, however where it falters is in the lyrics. For a world music anthem, especially one that treats Africa’s diversity as a single stereotypical monolith, one would expect that Suede would take a little more time to craft original lyrics that actually speak and acknowledges his multivariate audience. Instead what we get, are all the terrible tropes of the genre; sexualizing the continent, regurgitating tired lines about Africa needing to ‘rise up’ and ‘stand up’. It really isn’t too much to ask that if a musician is going to address the continent, they come a from a place of knowledge.

This is Suede’s first properly promoted single and only the second of his career, so he has some space to grow into his own as recording artist. Hopefully he sheds the tired tropes and actually gives us truly introspective music. Originality of content isn’t something artists who dabble in ‘world music’ can simply do without.

Listen to “Alkebulan” here.

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