A dear friend Manavi Deopura wrote this a few years back for a student magazine that a couple of us had started called, THINKING LOUD. Like most such college endeavours once we graduated and moved to different cities the magazine died out. Along with it some wonderful articles on films, music, politics, news, travel and short stories. Manavi has always had a great taste in music and a pen that trips language over. This is one of those articles hidden in a dusty pile of old college memoribilia.
I did not think variation would come. I thought rap was rhythmic repetitive jingles. I disliked blues all along. The cloy catchiness, the overt gloominess and pointed doom of 'screwed-up lives', and 'how-ma-papa-left-me-n-mama-beat-me-n-girlfriend-ditched-me-n-wife-divorced-me' made my eyes glaze over with boredom. Metromaniacs 'spittin' fly n bustin' rhymes' had spat and busted enough.
But then, UK-based band Mattafix salvaged.
How much can an airport inspire you… or a road? Or buses or hotels, for that matter? Do they inspire a song in you? Or a melody? Do they inspire you to inspire? Itinerant lifestyles being the genesis of their generic music, Mattafix sing about people.
The duo( Marlon Roudette and Preetesh Hirji) explore mixing techniques and instruments, from steel drums to flutes. Raw and danceable, their song text and the oeuvre cover several different chambers of music – Reggae, Dancehall, Alternative Rock, Hip Hop/Rap, R&B, Soul, World, Jazz and Blues! Intelligent, thoughtful lyrics give voice their understated socio political commentary. As their official website says, “Mattafix have a unique ability to deliver important ideas with irresistible music.” Their music purges you of the commercial, the said and done, the trite and the sham.
With the wave of musicians turning war-protesters, they brewed up their share of the "war cinematography" too: the single "Living Darfur", taken from their second album, “Rhythm and Hymns”. With Mick Jagger furnishing the finances, the video, released on 7th September 2007. The video featured Matt Daemon and was available as a download only. The way they have chosen to rally support for peace in the region makes the video unique. It’s not about hopelessness or tortured souls trapped in those refuge camps.What with the dump heap of news channels overlapping news with scandal, laminating facts with emotions, and bloating up news by injecting their opinions in them – the band has just showed Darfur in all its truth. It's the status quo. It just is. It says, "These are the people. They are rolling under oppression, driven out of their homes, they are suffering. Yet they are smiling, playing ball, dancing, running. And then, full stop.
They are not struggling to break free. They are letting be.
I don't see them trying too hard. I don't see them trying to cash in on the miseries of a people; I don't see tears and the blood and thunder, a given accoutrement with any war-ridden video, born out of the director's need to buy the viewer's sympathies. It doesn't even mention sympathy. Their songs are about you. You. Me. Themselves. Yet detachment manages to seep in. Hoods and the caps are in place. But they don't rap the formulaic rap. Like a gloomy Kevin Little having a conversation with a Sean Paul on Valium, Marlon Roudette and Preetesh Hijri, (Mattafix) with riddims for pauses, using what they have to by way of acoustics, get cracking. No weeping lyrics, no wailing self pity. It just is what it is.
Just the way their music is what it is.
By Manavi Deopura