Birds and the BEE9 : A Review


Photo: The Bandwagon

Sampa the Great’s latest body of musical work will enlighten your senses.

Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and now currently residing in Sydney, its fair to say Sampa the Great is proud of her heritage. From a young age music played a pivotal part in her life, she was heavily influenced by how music inspired the people around her, changing their lives, circumstances and perspectives.

Her current mixtape is one that is full-circle in message and in sound. It is deeply personal but also a body of work that will resonate closely with listeners, particularly African American females.

‘Healing’ takes us right back to her roots with its claps and percussion heavily dominating the soundscape, creating a harmony of natural sounds.

The accompanying rich, calm vocal harmonies hit your soul so precisely. A gentle guitar strum blends into the tune, just like the morning sun peeping through your windowsill awakening you into reality.

This song is important, it starts the listeners journey into the realms of the education and healing of not just a culture but the miseducation of an entire society.

‘Flowers’ featuring REMI is such a beautiful awakening with its classic, rich and vibrant sound just like a flower blooming into life. The recurrent percussion has this nostalgic 70’s ring to it combined with the synth and chiming bells.

Sampa’s youthful yet wise vocal poetry speaks volumes and emboldens these intricate instrumentals.

Also, its particularly nice to see Sampa and REMI hook up for another track, but this time it’s a lot more chilled but at the same time packed full of zest.

‘Protect Your Queen’ has quite an intriguing opening, making you just want to keep listening.

Damn, that heavy bass fused with Sampa’s ‘burning in confidence’ rap just automatically screams that she is not afraid to voice her thoughts.

Her poetic lyrics once again go back the ‘full-circle’ idea that the mixtape embodies:
“Black Queen please protect your King,

And Black King please protect your Queen.”

Then a chiming sound interjects, almost like a lightbulb moment as Sampa speaks “need more protecting.”

‘Rhymes To The East’ definitely has that middle-eastern influence, with what sounds like a Mizmar making up predominantly most of the soundscape.

Once again Sampa’s careful and thoughtful lyrical composition is evident:

“The level of the brain your told you can’t go,

The level of insane you’re told you can’t show.”

The almost hypnotic sound with the repetitive drums echoing in the background resonates well with the picture painted in the song’s lyrics.

‘Black Girl Magik’ featuring Nicole Gumbe is my personal favourite from the mixtape. Personally, I feel this track is probably the epitome of what this body of work stands for.

I love how Sampa purposively changed the spelling of ‘Magik’, which almost is like she is erasing all of the unnecessary connotations that have evolved with the previous spelling, almost like she is re-writing the history and understanding of this term, ‘Black Girl Magik.’

But wow, Cumbe’s angelic vocal harmonies just put me in awe, they literally gave me chills. Her harmonies are just so dreamy, sending you above the clouds.

And when Sampa chirps in with her raw vocals almost awaken your conscience to the truth of Black Girl Magik.

‘Karma the Villian’ is where Sampa really lets off some steam.

Her lyrics are quite cynical here, but they tell of some of the real problems in society, like abuse of power and corruption.

Her talent as a rapper is prominent in this track, with her voice sounding almost possessed into a more raspy and raw tone which almost turns robotic towards the end of the track.

‘Bye River’ is the complete opposite to the preceding track, as we retreat back into the calmness and familiarity of tone in which the album opened with.

Sampa’s soothing hums alongside the percussion and gentle keyboard echoing in the background just creates such a magical sound. The track possesses this natural soulful sound.

Interestingly, Sampa’s vocal tone dramatically contrasts to the previous track. Here, it is quite feminine and almost childlike compared to the brash harshness of the darker, more masculine tone she adopted in the previous song.

‘Healer’ featuring Zaachariaha is the final track from the mixtape. Driven entirely by hand claps, rhythmic percussion and resonating vocals which trace right back to her roots and the beginning of the record.

Ultimately, the mixtape ends full-circle but this time the sound is more alive and aware, much like the mind of the listener after immersing themselves in the entirety of the work.

You can purchase Sampa the Great’s latest mixtape right here.

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