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Camilla George: The People Could Fly (UBU0015)

 “They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic… and they flew like blackbirds over the fields.” —Virginia Hamilton

 

Camilla George follows her critically acclaimed debut album Isang (Ubuntu Music) with The People Could Fly, a hypnotising blend of Afrofuturism, hip-hop and jazz. The album is named after a book of African folktales that portrays the lives and experiences of African slaves who created stories in which animals have assumed the personalities of the slaves and slave owners. “This is a project which is very close to my heart as I grew up listening to my mum and grandmother tell me these stories,” says George. “I have always been fascinated by these tales and really wanted to explore them further. The message of the book is so important as although these tales were born out of suffering and sorrow, they are essentially stories of hope for black people and mankind that we can one day live together in harmony and are a celebration of the human spirit.”

 “The People Could Fly was my favourite story in this collection of tales. The cover illustration showed men and women flying over the cotton fields. The idea behind it is that some Africans were magical and had the ability to fly but through long enslavement lost the ability to fly away,” explains the MOBO-nominated saxophonist. “This image is bittersweet for me as it is a fantasy tale of suffering and is a powerful testament to the millions of slaves who never had the opportunity to fly away.”

 George’s band features core members Sarah Tandy, Daniel Casimir, Winston Clifford and Femi Koleso with special guests soul legend Omar Lye-Fook, vocalist Cherise Adams Burnett, guitarist Shirley Tetteh and trumpeter Quentin Collins. “I knew from the moment I decided to write music for these amazing stories that I wanted to expand the sound of my band in order to realise the sounds that I had been hearing in my head, says George.  “I was keen to add to the horn section with trumpet and to have both a male and female vocalist as well as guitar which is key in many of my compositions for this album.”

 The album finishes with a fine interpretation of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Here but I’m Gone’. “This is a great bookend to an album that starts with a tale of famine and suffering,” says George.  “I see this track as a commentary on the black social condition in America and with recent political events, I think is even more poignant.”

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