Shabaka & the Ancestors are a jazz octet led by the supremely talented London-based tenor saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings. They blew onto the scene in 2016 with their heavy, mesmeric and spiritual debut album Wisdom of Elders. It was a raw, rich and captivating release that captured a tribal, raw energy that completely blew me away on first listen. Four long years later, they’ve returned with an equally rich, textured, aura-inspiring project titled We Are Sent Here By History. It feels heavy on the heart, beautiful and utterly emotive – a perfect follow up to their debut.
With 11 tracks and clocking in at almost an hour, We Are Sent Here By History is a long and immersive project that requires time and the upmost attention. I see it as a concept album studying the growth of a man through every emotion, light and dark. It kicks off with “They Who Must Die,” a vibrant and horn-heavy track that brings a building, grueling energy that just did not stop for its 10 minutes. The tone and energy shifts and meanders throughout the album, with softer and more melodic compositions being at the forefront of their vast and diverse sonic soundscape. “You’ve Been Called” is an incredibly beautiful and soulful track with incredible vocals and an infectious, groovy energy. The dominant and slightly aggressive basslines throughout “Go To My Heart, Go To Heaven” draw me in to all the intensity created from the drumming and harmonious horn sections that sound so groovy and soulful. The playful tone of “Run, The Darkness Will Pass” is just incredible and I keep coming back to it. The sombre, melodic tone of the track as a whole makes it a memorable moment for me. The pulsating groove of “The Coming Of Strange Ones” is relentless. The tribal energy of “We Will Work (On Redefining Manhood)” is another gorgeous, tribal and raw moment on the album with poignant vocals and a rumbling energy. “‘Til The Freedom Comes Home” is another visceral moment on the album, with a spiritual, almost otherworldly quality to it. “Finally, The Man Cried” sounds like call to a higher power, from it’s gentle and calming vocals to the dominant and almost meditative bass and drum leads. “Teach Me How To Be Vulnerable” is a gentle and soft closer to this memorable album, with its soft and gentle keys and saxophone leads.
This album put me in a trance-like state of mind in its entirety. Its musical metamorphosis from track to track, melody to melody and sound to sound brings such emotive depth and beauty to the experience. Shabaka & the Ancestors really exceeded all expectations on We Are Sent Here By History. Listen to the masterpiece below and don’t forget to support!