Shabaka Hutchings (now operating under the mononym Shabaka) has shared his first solo studio EP, Afrikan Culture. The London composer and multi-instrumentalist’s new record arrives via Impulse! Records, the historic home of jazz legends John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Sun Ra, among many others.
Shabaka is best known as the the saxophonist/clarinetist/frontman of the high-energy Sons of Kemet quartet, which also comprises tuba player Theon Cross and dual drummers Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick. Outside that band, he’s played in Sun Ra Arkestra and collaborated with Floating Points, Mulatu Astatke, and a long list of exciting new groups within London’s explosive new jazz scene. In 2020, he released an album with a group of South African musicians as Shabaka and the Ancestors, also via Impulse!.
Afrikan Culture is a departure from the pummeling instrumentals Shabaka is known for producing with Sons of Kemet. Here, he trades these propulsive rhythms for dreamy, meter-less ambience, exploring traditional African instruments such as the kora and the mbira in conjunction with the music box — a handmade, battery-powered synthesizer — and the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. The result is a mesmeric collection of eight tracks, falling just short of the 30-minute mark but inducing the sort of timeless trance that leaves the listener wonder where the last half hour has gone when the record reaches its end.