Can't chain up me mind

Can’t Chain Up Me Mind was commissioned to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade by Britain (1807) and the USA (1808), and it celebrates its great musical legacy: jazz – the music of the emancipated and the most emancipated of musics – and the music of Cuba, Brazil and the Caribbean.

It begins with the hymns, spirituals and brass band of a New Orleans funeral – ‘birth, death and life again’ – as a metaphor for the historical journey taken by slaves, and their indomitable efforts to maintain their culture and identity in exile and adversity.

In a kind of flashback to West Africa centuries ago, a sequence built around Yoruba chants and drumming invokes the ancient orishas – Elegguá, guardian of the crossroads and the spirit presiding over journeys, and Yémanyá, guardian of fishermen and the spirit of rivers and seas. The Yoruba chants and drum rhythms gradually merge with suggestions of reggae, samba, rumba, calypso, the Delta blues, New Orleans funk and up-tempo swing - interspersed with powerful, dramatic songs - to create a moving impression of the slave trade and how it gave birth to such glorious music, telling the age-old story of adaptation and survival in the New World.

The show ends with music typical of West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin-America today – the dance rhythms of hi-life, samba and salsa, ska and reggae, calypso and soca that have evolved from centuries of cultural mixing between Africa and the Americas.

Can’t Chain Up Me Mind features some of the Grand Union Orchestra’s finest African, Caribbean and Latin-American musicians and jazz soloists, including Claude Deppa, Kevin Robinson and Byron Wallen (trumpets), Tony Kofi and Louise Elliott (saxophones), Harry Brown (trombone), Andy Grappy (tuba), Josefina Cupido (Latin percussion, voice), Bravo Fimber (steel pan, timbales), Gerry Hunt (guitar, saxophones), Andres Lafone (bass guitar) and Brian Abrahams (drums, voice).

Music by Tony Haynes
Lyrics by Valerie Bloom, John Matshikiza

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Supported by the European Cultural Foundation
For regular updates of Gathering, Travelling – Grand Union’s ECF-funded project in collaboration with partners in Portugal and France – please click here.
Supported by the Arts Council England
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