Friday, October 8th, 2021

Zakes Bantwini & Kasongo – Osama

But what does it mean? To us, it means “straight to the sidebar.”


Scott Mildenhall: Zakes’ supralinguistic search for a spiritual euphony is thought-provoking, but the voice it gives to “Osama”‘s pulse moves on a physical level above all. The familiarity of its timeless smoothness is also given a jolt by the prominence of symbolically futuristic sounds, though it’s still a slighter electrification than can be had elsewhere. Far from a distraction, it illuminates with its own light — this is no less centred for it, just differently orientated.

John S. Quinn-Puerta: The lyrics are literally untranslatable, outside of a few names that need no translation. The invocation of Fela Kuti feels particularly appropriate as “Osama” is built from the same persistent rhythms as Afrobeat with four on the floor as foundation. The reverb on the vocals lends them a feeling of communal expression, of voices uplifted in an airy space, in dialogue with their higher selves. 

Ian Mathers: “Osama” is mostly built around the kind of sleekly, almost beatifically minimal techno pulse that you don’t actually have to add much to for it to work (which is a good thing, because it sticks around pretty unadorned for a bit at the beginning). And yet the very beautiful singing (at least partially glossolalia, apparently) over it not only feels totally natural in that context, it kind of feels like it’s unlocking the potential of the very focused production the way that, say, a sampled hook might not. You watch a video of “Osama” being played live and it just feels like… yes, of course these things were always supposed to go together.

Juana Giaimo: Maybe it’s because of the artwork, but as soon as this started I felt I was suspended in space. And I think “suspended” is a good word to describe it. It feels still (not slow or repetitive), but in a positive way, like a break from reality, like its own suspension of time. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The lyrics are perfect house music nonsense — 80% glossolalia, 20% inter-genre reference. The kwaito beat is even better, a constantly pulsing loop that just builds and builds, never getting old as it pushes inexorably to the grand synth fanfares of the song’s climax.

Nortey Dowuona: When we begin this song, the single synth chord underneath the arpeggios warn of a new possibility for the song to go. And then, Zakes and Kasongo take it there, with loping piano chords and shuffling percussion swiping the ground out from under the thudding kicks, with the synths taking over as the kicks drop out and so does the percussion. Zakes’ and Kasongo’s voices connect and tighten, then the percussion and kicks slide in as the bass slowly emerges from the background, grinning, then lifting the synth strings out. The percussion and kicks recede, as do the bass and synths, leaving the strings to play us out.

Edward Okulicz: People trying to work out what the song is about by reading the lyrics, and I confess I’m often one of these people, are completely missing the point on a song like this. This is simultaneously otherworldly and earthy, and the lyrics just being whatever makes them both tantalisingly obscure and immediately comforting and universal. There’s as much or as little meaning as you need, but alwas enough to move to; “Osama” drips with reverence as it moves you in so many different ways.

Alfred Soto: The massed vocals are beautiful in themselves. I’m here for that sequencer: a line of beauty. Why do so many artists get this wrong?

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2 Responses to “Zakes Bantwini & Kasongo – Osama”

  1. encountered this one the other week due to Spotify recs. could be 12 minutes and i’d love it even more

  2. This is absolutely the kind of song that makes me ask the same question Alfred does here.