Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Sun-El Musician ft. Msaki – Ubomi Abumanga

Another year, another Sun-El Musician track in the sidebar…


Alfred Soto: Listen here, Sun-El, cease and desist. We’re tired of these shimmering puddles of warm rose water that pour from this spigot of yours. We don’t deserve them, not when if we believed in civilization we would’ve quarantined the fuck up for months so that we could dance to “Ubomi Abumanga” in late summer.

Pedro João Santos: Sunbaked Afrohouse is the land of Sun-El Musician, where he made his full-length debut, Africa to the World: transportive and anthemic at its best. “Ubomi Abumanga” (which seems to translate to “Life Has Not Stopped”), reaching for a similar paintbox, billows out in sterner waves. A minor piano note beckons each new wave of galloping percussion and solemn melody, while the sub-bass choreographs a dreamlike frequency underneath. Mindful of club-induced stasis, but not that far removed from the soulful songwriting of “Akanamali,” it could be an unassuming bid for a summer hit — but one that knows to unite with Msaki’s empathetic voice, and could dispense with the triumphant trumpets straight out of 2014.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Ubomi Abumanga,” like much of Sun-El Musician’s production, runs on a feeling of thoroughgoing, almost cosmic momentum. The soft beeps and beat never change, yet they feel like they’re constantly evolving into something larger and more beautiful, traveling to unknown places of beatific peace. I don’t speak isiXhosa, but this sonic background was enough to tell me that Msaki’s words are affirmations of our body and spirit — confirmed by a translation she approved. Her voice is arresting as she sings, “It’s been a long time/You still have a purpose.” The title “Ubomi Abumanga” itself roughly translates to “Life hasn’t stopped” or “Life continues,” and carried by the production and Msaki’s dulcet voice, these messages are overwhelming and even tear-inducing–even more if you contextualize the song within Msaki’s message of keeping hope in the face of violence towards black and queer people.

David Moore: Glittering, limpid, a slow, transcendent build that moves me at its leisure.

Nortey Dowuona: A shimmying drum program circles a small girl plucking one note at the piano. Her mother, Msaki, sits outside with her and joins in by playing a slow bass line, while her father, Sun-El, creates a synth progression in his study upstairs. Msaki begins to sing, her voice low and carefully spun as her older daughter begins plucking at her cousin’s gifted ukulele. The sun sets in the distance facing them as Sun-El adds his brother’s trumpet. Then Msaki lays down her bass synth as the rest of the family continues to play. She goes inside and pours some orange juice, joined by Sun-El. Her older daughter goes off to her cousin’s house to work on a new ukelele song. Finally, the small girl walks back inside, shadowed by the drums.

Michael Hong: Every note is imbued with gentle warmth — “Ubomi Abumanga” was made for daydreaming, for sleeping in late on weekend mornings, and for feeling the sun dance across your skin.

Kylo Nocom: Sun-El Musician’s track record is so impressive that the prospect of his making complete duds feels less likely than his sound eventually losing potency — a potentially worse fate. Msaki’s presence is a missed opportunity: her voice can command the space of an entire room, but here she seems reduced to an unsuited auxiliary role. “Ubomi Abumanga” ticks off all the boxes of a typical Sun-El track but lacks his characteristic craftsmanship: atmosphere without anything to ground it. At least the horns are nice.

Katherine St Asaph: Diaphanous yet substantial; very structured, with a perfectly timed build-up and release, yet unbounded by time. Put it on repeat and watch entire hours dissolve.

Oliver Maier: I happened across NASA’s ten-year timelapse of the sun just after I clicked play on this song for the first time, a visual so appropriate that I am mildly convinced that divine intervention had something to do with it. In the video, the sun lights up, dies down, and does plenty of other things I am not knowledgeable enough to describe, but mostly it rotates. After five minutes, I feel as though I am looking at something both the same and fundamentally different from when I started. “Ubomi Abumanga” is similar. It begins and ends with what is technically the exact same beat, and yet they are not really the same. As moments they’re distinct, made unique by their placement in time and everything Sun-El and Msaki accomplish between those two points. Rather than push it in any direction, Sun-El simply allows the song to rotate in place and reveal new lights and textures over time. We’re fortunate to be able to bask in its warmth.

Reader average: [6.8] (5 votes)

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One Response to “Sun-El Musician ft. Msaki – Ubomi Abumanga”

  1. missed out on blurbing this by an hour or two because i truly couldn’t figure out anything insightful to say. it’s great! it’s like waking up!

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