Not in Praise of Poison (NIPP) is an album and pending exhibition performance, embodying multicultural collaboration, that represents and explores archival processes about immigration, black women's' experience, and political transcendence in both internal and external states of being and mind. The work, named in honor of Basquiat's journals, focuses heavily on the complexities of South Africa's current political climate and history in tandem with that of the United States, Pakistan, and China - the countries that make up the heritage and cultures of the collective. Repressions and refractions and thus the political inspiration of decolonization, demilitarization, criminal justice reform, and a resistance to aparthedid-conomics make up some of the resistance tools developed in the lives of those oppressed by larger powers. We express a fraction of those voices through topics such as: politics of care, eating the other, rupture, the interference archive, caring for captivity, mama carries wood- some of our tracks' titles.
Largely inspired by the writings of Koleka Putuma, Marcus Scott Williams, and bell hooks, and the music of Angel Bat Dawid, Makaya McCraven, and Perrin Moss, Not In Praise of Poison sets Xhosa folk music to RnB, contemporary classical to Afrobeat. This blend is highly influenced by the Xhosa musical tradition of reflecting realities back to the community through song to express daily news, family happenings, and healing.
We're proud to represent, promote, and add to the voices of Black Women composers in both the classical and jazz arenas, which there is a clear global lack of and need for. As teachers currently working to reform prison pipeline complexes and to document cultural practitioners' voices, we envision a series of composition workshops for teens facing issues and themes we address.
This project is a continuation of decolonization through artistic action.
Songwriter Dumama, channels lived experiences of living and departed ancestors in the creative process. She lost a maternal grandmother 2 weeks before the making of this work. The day the recording process started at Figure 8, Dumama received news from South Africa about her grandmother’s burial site. It had been vandalized, amongst other things. This dysfunction and harmonized cosmic mayhem of black lives on the planet, not only informs the process but it also inspires intention and direction towards collective healing.
Energetic flow was a daily consideration. The days’ inspiration was fed by a small library kept in the studio throughout the recording and work about the black contemporary situation by Marcus Scott Williams and Koleka Putuma was read by all involved. Specific time was dedicated both to meditating on nothing and to improvising. Pre composed works were completed on different days to gather different tones and energies. Jam sessions with musicians outside the project as well as jam sessions of conversation were had during the process. Dance music and days off were crucial. An exclusive and free exhibit of grandmaster Basquiat’s original works was attended. A producers’ mother losing her hearing was both interviewed and cared for by the artists and in the artists’ home, serendipitously referencing the original title of the project The Life of Grandma. And because intimate relationships seemed to gravitate towards the process itself, the politics of care was held with a conscious grace.
These factors resulted in a collaborative effort to harmonize the overlapping of personal and global phychospiratual processes through which the artists’ personal cultures and carried histories contributed to the work like a backpack does to school and to life beyond.
New York, a multiverse type of place that can be conceptualized as an airport by those non-native, has long been a place in which cultural coalescence is lived and conversated about through artistic movements and their crossovers - as seen through the lense of work by poets like Saul Williams, Marcus Scott Williams, and Basquiat. A kind of melding of shared and unshared experiences. With that preface, that conversations about immigrants and their experience, crises and successes throughout time and therefore the colonial histories of Pakistan, South Africa, China, and the United States, become natural and indeed native to the process and paths we found ourselves embarking upon. The tension, fear and concern for the well being and survival of oppressed groups has intensified with the surge of global nationalism and the violence inherent to it. These complexities of feeling helpless, yet urgently responsible manifest here.
03 Isiko Lisiko
04 Eating the Other
06 Mama Carries
08 The Interference Archive
09 Caring for Captivity
10 A Nowhere Place to Call Home
11 Broken Ones
12 A Loud Tender
13 Moral Relativity
Not in Praise of Poison traces a prismatic relationship between a tryptic of themes: inner voice, self care, and interruptions. The idea that these themes, represented by both lived experience and study, could each be explored, viewed and heard from three angles (roughly child, adult, elder) gave us a framework and a garden of questioning seeds. Yet because unframing and confusion were such integral inspirations, the themes and ideas themselves, inevitability a winding and intertwined set of paths and lives, overlap and interrupt each other. We represented this with interspersed improvisations and drew their meaning as distractions from a wide range of environments (conceptualizations, approaches, and orchestrations). This process therefore led us to ask, are the distractions from the conscious goal themselves, the actual focus and work? Asked another way, do we set out to work in order to spawn distraction that informs the next work objective that informs the next and so on. A life lived in relation to and the daily practice of creativity. The Xhosa relationship with making music is highly influenced by daily news making and healing. The tradition is rooted in reflecting reality back to the community and so the goings-on happening in that society are happening in the music - created and represented through myth and allegory. We let this interplay of written and unwritten, prewritten and postwritten, run wild.
These songs study: multicultural intimacy in Politics of Care, and Eating the Other (honoring the writing of bell hooks), motherhood and daughtership in Mama Carries Wood that also references Zen Buddist, confusion/clarity in Rupture, and the process of unframing ones’ own nature in Indalo.
Conceptualization - first round complete and development in growth
Composing and Demo’ing - complete
Recording - complete
Mixing/Mastering - in progress
October - Picking takes, Arrangement
November - Overdubs
December - Picking takes, Pre-mixing
January - Mixing 1-3 singles
February - Mastering
March - PR campaign starts
April - Single 1 release
June - Single 2 release
August - Single 3 release
September - album previews and exhibition