Akua Naru- "The Journey...Aflame" OFFICIAL VIDEO
Nomadic Wax Exclusive Premiere: Akua Naru’s “The Journey… Aflame”
written by Amanda Macchia
Akua Naru is on fire, but she’s only just begun. Check out the premiere of her video “The Journey… Aflame”
Back in February of 2012, international hip hop poet Akua Naru brought her band Digflo and a few other guest musicians into the studio to record and film a live session album. Live & Aflame is a remix of Akua’s debut release, Journey Aflame. In this new record and video series, Akua’s centered ferocity and performative poetics translates into something unbelievable, bridging the gap between the writer’s kinetic performances and the sounds of the studio.
“There is something powerful about adding a visual component to the message. People can rock to you by listening to the music, but I have found that having visual images to accompany that message has a dramatic effect,” says Akua. “I wanted to record the album and film our recordings live in session. I felt that it could have more of an impact on how the listener receives the music.”
Akua has released 6 videos over the course of several months. “The Journey… Aflame” is number 7. Nomadic Wax has teamed up with the artist to offer an exclusive premier of what is, without a doubt, the most powerful track on the album.
“I believe that ‘The Journey… Aflame’ is the most important song that I have ever written,” Akua says. Recorded and performed live during the Live & Aflame sessions, this track conveys the song’s emotions in a way that the original studio version couldn’t. The music video brings it to life.
“The version on The Journey is still a powerful one, but the beat doesn’t transition, it’s not alive. I was left feeling that I wanted to retell the story with music that develops and changes like the story itself. I was searching for a better marriage between the music and the words. ‘The Journey… Aflame,’ for me, fits better because we weave from spoken word to rap, just like the music shifts between blues, rock, hip hop and so on. As the story progresses to cover over a 400 year span, so does the music. That development has helped me to convey the emotions written within the song.”
The Journey… Aflame” is deeply emotional. It tracks the odyssey of black American women through time and space, telling a story that is often left out of popular culture and public school history lessons.
“When I write,” Akua says, “I often want to create the song that I feel is missing… Since women are so often underrepresented in hip hop, we are denied access to an incredible body of knowledge. I wanted to tell the story of black American women from pre-colonial Africa to the present day. This is the story of my mother, and her mother, and her mother, and so on. …I wanted to play with time, the present and past and future, because history is very present in African American culture. Sometimes it surfaces as trauma, sometimes as heroism, but it is always there.”
“The Journey… Aflame” exposes stark realities. The dehumanization and objectification of African American women throughout history is still a part of mainstream society. Akua unpacks how African American women are seen and how they see themselves, “how we are defined and constructed by ourselves, and the other,” as she explains.
Akua continues, “…there has always been a lot of politics surrounding the black female body, and I wanted to frame that discussion within [its] historical context – from us being victims of sexual terrorism during and after slavery, to us being labeled bitches and hoes, and used to sell music and other products through mass media… I wanted to explore those relationships and conjure the trauma, the pain – what that must have felt like for my grandmother and her elders, what that feels like for me today. And if we don’t evolve… what it will continue to feel like tomorrow.”
Music and performance have long explored and reflected upon these stories in African American culture, and have also served as a significant means of expression throughout history. Music is a means of survival, salvation, hope, and safety, and something that is forever constant. “For us,” Akua says, “music has always held a mirror to the struggle. The music has told us the minds and the hearts of the people, even when we are deemed invisible. Even when we are not seen as people. The music was always there.”
Akua writes and creates in the same tradition. “It has always been a way of survival. For me, as a poet, a writer, and emcee, music has been cathartic. It has been my way to teach, to express, to heal; to record my experiences as I navigate my historical, political, and cultural inheritances.”
“The Journey… Aflame” is the epitome of this experience in Akua’s career and life as an artist. It carries the weight of her historical understanding of herself as a woman. As a black American woman. In its very existence, the song bears a usefulness that marries to its message. “It is important that we not let others write our story for us,” Akua explains. “…so often that has been the case for black people, for women. It is important that we chronicle our experiences along the journey and that we stand to tell our stories. It is important that those stories are told, because they are invaluable. There is a lot of danger in having a single story.”
While “The Journey… Aflame” poses several difficult questions – “What does it mean to be a black women in a white supremacist context? What does it mean for us today? What has that meant over time, as we negotiate our identities as black women? What does that mean for our skin? Our hair? Our beautiful African features? What kind of trauma, pain, and struggle we have been been forced to endure,” says Akua, “It is a celebration… because we are still here, still intelligent, still beautiful, still critical of the spaces in which we navigate.”
Akua Naru’s Live & Aflame hit stores back in May. It is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. Akua has also been featured in an impressive collaboration with Questlove, Angelique Kidjo, and the tUnE-yArDs. The musicians recorded a cover of Fela Kuti’s classic “Lady” for the up-and-coming Redhot + Fela album to be released some time toward the end of 2012. The single is available on iTunes and all proceeds go to charity. “The goal,” says Akua, “is to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015. I am really proud to have lent my voice to such an important project, and along with such legendary artists.”