By Jayleen Rolon
Alfa Sekitoleko, professionally known as Alfa Mist, is a British jazz pianist, composer and rapper. He is seen as a pioneer of the modern jazz genre who creatively mixes in hip-hop elements. Sekitoleko’s second studio album “Antiphon” was released in 2017 and was very well received, with the YouTube video of the full album currently standing at nearly 8 million views.
Tracks on “Bring Backs” tend to fall into one of two categories: instrumental oriented or vocal oriented.
My favorite example of the instrumental-oriented group is “Coasting,” a lively instrumental piece that rises and falls as you are pulled along for the journey. “Coasting,” as well as the other instrumental pieces, is perfect to add to a studying or relaxing playlist if you’re on the lookout for new music.
As for the vocal-oriented section of the album, “Organic Rust” explores the theme of hopelessness and frustration when your best is simply not enough in life, as he ponders on the definition of success. While the piece is undeniably jazzy, the delivery of the lyrics shows off the hip-hop influence as the lines flow in a rhythm. “It’s the furthest I’ve ever been but I’m lagging behind / At the / Front of the queue for the back of the line,” says Sekitoleko in one of the powerful points of the track.
As with most albums, the lines between these two categories are blurred at times, through the sampling of audios and the implementation of vocal pieces that don’t sacrifice the instrumental for the best of both worlds, where they meet in the middle to create a wonderful blend of powerful lyrics and the beautifully composed instrumental at the heart of jazz.
“Last Card (Bumper Cars)” is a perfect example of this, as it centers around a Hilary Thomas poem about immigration through lines like “from Africa to Europe via Caribbean She came; / She came to land where cool breeze meant freeze, / and Soup and Curry carried aromas to Open Door no more.” Almost exactly in the middle of the track, it switches entirely into an instrumental titled “Bumper Cars,” but only following the cue of the poem. The final lyric “but Friday was payday, and Glory come Sunday” prompts the tonal shift from somber to optimistic.
“Bring Backs” is predictable and familiar in a lot of ways; it fulfills the expectations of Jazz with the impressive saxophone and the steady drums and that’s what makes it comforting. It also deviates from the expectations of hip-hop by breaking the standards of songwriting, lacking repetitive choruses and catchy hooks. The lyrics sound more like poetry, a gift from Sekitoleko’s hip-hop influences. Literal poetry meets the musical poetry of jazz and makes Sekitoleko memorable as an artist.
If you think jazz belongs in the 1920s, listen to this album and you’ll be reminded that everything that made people fall in love with the genre is still alive today.