The imperative of music in 2020

By Yusef Bushara.

My daily imperative is to listen to music, and I have every reason to believe that this predilection isn’t unique. It’s my waking conversation, and one which greets me during most mornings with about as much assurance as, well, the “guarantees” in life we take most for granted. If you live in La Vieille Ville, these guarantees might be granted to you in the form of the sometimes-enchanting, but often insanity-inducing Basilica bells. For the gentlemen who lay claim to the beach, the arguably notorious MDL boys, morning’s first tune might be the waves against their windows, or for the Villa Jasmine girls, it might be the choir of seagulls perched on the surrounding terracotta. 

That’s to say that the ongoing traffic of life was designed to be accompanied, amplified, and drowned out by music. If you ask me, music is the fourth precondition for survival, and in order of necessity, music takes second position, and water third. I’m of the opinion that, out there, wandering through the musicsphere, is one song crafted and carved for each of us, adorned with features singular to our preferences. It comes charging into our lives sitting atop none other but the vehicle of spontaneity, and it takes hostage our most basic human impulses. I say this to reinforce my conviction that music taps into a very primitive human response, and one which identifies on the basis of exploiting expectation. We seldom know the songs and albums which will last favorably in our memory vaults, and that’s precisely what makes the chase so thrilling— because out there is one song floating, waiting for its perfect match in the shape of an expectant listener. And if we’re lucky, we’re afforded the sweetness of “meeting” that one song over and over and over again. 

Being found by music that engages with the layers of my individuality is the closest I’ll ever come to a “glass slipper” moment. Music reconciled this year´s dueling havoc and beauty through the fullness of sound, the grandeur of lyricism, and the subtlety of silence between tracks. So, in a 2020 defined by chaotic dynamism, music was my most valuable player because it delivered articulation to feelings that I might not have had the bandwidth to access otherwise. Where do we bestow our gratitude for the songs which sparked us joy this year? The answer is simple: in our curiosity to seek out more good music, incessantly. 

Whether you choose to be romanced by Spotify or by Apple Music, by the radio or the record player, integrate music into your day-to-day just as you do the other tools which fuel your survival, but chiefly, your happiness. On the days where my happiness was interrogated by self-doubt and pandemic fatigue, these were the “glass slipper” albums which kept the wheels in rotation.

Wizkid’s Made in Lagos captures the rhythmic incantations of a dancing soul, perfect for the times when the only thing that seems to matter is the very moment itself. It has its roots in African soil but invokes a universal appeal. This album was nothing short of exquisite.

The integrity of Amine’s brand has always been its levity, and Limbo is no exception. It’s not without pensive moments from the Portland rapper, but just as he announces to open on the premiering track “Burden,” “This some shit you go pick your homie up from jail with.”

Another Lagos-based artist, Tems delivers her reflections on the messy intersection of love, life, and freedom in For Broken Ears, all without sparing the raspy intensity of a voice wise beyond its years

Girl Eats Sun by London’s Hope Tala is the quintessential Spring-vibe inducing album. Accented by a largely acoustic overlay, Tala finds a way to serenade the listeners with her airy style stripped-back track after track.

J Hus leaves nothing left unsaid on his second studio album, Big Conspiracy. Renowned for his piercing elementary-style word-play and effortless flow, Hus saturates this album with the lyricism of a master MC who knows how to command a mic while leaving the truth unscathed. 

Whether you found a musical shoe that fit this year or in years past, never let the sanctity and the pleasure of a good song get lost on you. Embrace the spontaneous misadventure of finding your melodic soulmate, and I hope the imperative of music intensifies for you in 2021, because I know it will for me.

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