It’s been three, maybe four, years since Imani Uzuri released Her Holy Water: A Black Girl’s Rock Opera. ‘Bout time, since both of my kids have been wearing out that album’s title track. Seriously, though, we’re all thrilled for Imani’s latest, which further explores her musical, geographic and spiritual wanderings.
In general, songs about spirituality tend to be uninteresting to me. Which is part of the reason I’m bored to death by Georgia Anne Muldrow, whose approach seems so on the nose (combined with uninspired orchestrations), that I can’t wait to move onto something else. There are, however, artists who I recognize carry this off well: Toshi Reagon and Lizz Wright (especially her last album) come immediately to mind. As does Imani Uzuri.
Like Toshi, Imani has a powerful voice. What she’s been developing over the years is her own way of delivering music that’s distinctively hers. In fact, here’s what I wrote about her back in 2007:
Now, it’s been several years since I’d seen Imani, and I’d forgotten about her presence: A mix of southern earthiness, church-girl matter-of-factness, and new age spirituality, all of which is backed up by some serious pipes.
And I think the southern/church/spiritual aspect is key: Her songs are prayers. She provides a verse/chorus setup and then repeats with different colors and intonations. When they work best the songs become, in their own way, trancelike tonal meditations.
The Gypsy Diaries is definitely a level up, a refinement of an approach that was, when framed against classic pop song structure, very much outside-the-box. Imani should be applauded because she had the fortitude to stick to her own sense of who she is, and she’s let her music develop out of that. Traveling and performing around the world helped her see the points at which all music, no matter what language it’s in, becomes universal. “If you’re transmitting joy or sadness, it’s about sharing the truth of that with the voice. That’s where you feel the connection and integrity.”
Imani will launch her new album in NYC with a special performance at June 1 at Joe’s Pub. Info and tix here.
In the meantime, check out this track from The Gypsy Diaries: