Shabaka & The Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History

Shabaka Hutchings returns with a spiritual jazz odyssey that presents a new form of the griot storytelling tradition

Album Review by Eugenie Johnson | 10 Mar 2020
  • Shabaka and the Ancestors - We Are Sent Here By History
Album title: We Are Sent Here By History
Artist: Shabaka & The Ancestors
Label: Impulse! Records
Release date: 13 Mar

A living archive of history, a griot is a storyteller, a repository of the oral tradition. Four years on from their breakthrough Wisdom of Elders (with a number of critically-acclaimed outings with The Comet Is Coming and Sons of Kemet for Shabaka Hutchings in the meantime), Shabaka & The Ancestors return with their own form of griot, drawing on the tradition and reformatting it into a spiritual jazz odyssey for the modern age.

Where Wisdom of Elders mused on an upcoming societal collapse, We Are Sent Here By History is centred within that environment, reflecting on the coming extinction of the human race. At other points, the music takes a slight step back, allowing the words of South African performance artist Siyabonga Mthembu to drift to the surface (as at the opening to You’ve Been Called, where he’s accompanied by fragile, eerie piano). Though it’s often dark in tone, there are also moments of urgency, with the likes of The Coming of the Strange Ones and They Who Must Die bursting into flurries of stirring saxophone and propulsive bass and drum licks.

Ultimately, although it’s more immediate than their 2016 record, what you gain from We Are Sent Here By History will be dictated by how much you connect with its musical vision. Sink into its groove though and it’s an album that presents a fascinating societal commentary.

Listen to: The Coming of the Strange Ones