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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Freedom Groove’ By Keleketla!

Toyi toyi was the dance of the Mau Mau people in Kenya, as they fought against British colonialism. The dance was embraced by the South Africa anti-apartheid movement as a nonviolent means of challenging systems of oppression.

The collaborative music project “Keleketla!” embraces the call-and response tradition of toyi toyi, as well as the way music and politics can feed off each other to produce a transcendent experience.

As described at the project’s Bandcamp page, recording sessions in South Africa and London expanded to include musicians from Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, West Papua, and Lagos, Nigeria. 

Afrobeat architect Tony Allen, Dele Sosimi, West Papuan activist Benny Wenda, and L.A. spoken word pioneers The Watts Prophets contributed to the project.

“Freedom Groove” is the product of an “off-the-cuff jam session” between Allen and Matt Black, who is part of Coldcut. “Allen’s drum part was taken to build a new track, overlaid with fat, battle-cry brass from Antibalas, and a powerful call to freedom from The Watts Prophets.”

Father Amde Hamilton speaks over an afrobeat rhythm punctuated with electronic ambient noises and jazz riffs:

Screams to be free
But fails to see
The change of order needed to be
Cause there ain’t nothing free
Nothing on Earth in the universe is free
All must follow an order to be

Hamilton confronts materialist notions of freedom while proclaiming that freedom is within a person. It manifests with love and harmony spread outward into society. “That’s what free means to me.”

Like most of the tracks on the album, it fuses styles of music and incorporates motifs from around the world to represent the geographically diverse lineup.

This was one of the final projects, where Allen played drums, before his death on April 30.

“Keleketla!” harnesses the spiritual power of music to rise above injustice. As an extension of struggles for liberation, past and present, it appeals to us to decolonize our minds so our souls may be free.

Listen to “Freedom Groove”:

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."