Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | In true Ugandan tradition, the Spear symbolizes royalty, coming of age, passing on responsibility and wisdom.
The Spear album catapults this tradition into the future through an Afro-futurist, HipHop and Afropunk musical blend, with lyrics reflecting the demands of our time in both Luganda and English.
GNL Zamba, a Hip Hop icon in Uganda, has spent three years pouring his personal and spiritual journey of growth into this album, which is to be released at a time when Ugandans are in need of the personal reflection and social unity it calls for – as they grapple with the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic and divisive elections.
GNL (Greatness with No Limits) Zamba rose to fame a decade ago when he captivated the country with his unique concepts of storytelling, by building bridges that married tradition and urban culture through a series of EP and album releases including: Riddles of life Koi Koi (2009), Speaking Vernacular (2011), Uganda Yaffe (2013), I Am Zamba / Ceasar (2014) and Dreaming in Colour (2016), as well as many singles.
GNL Zamba’s lyrical skill sparked a new youth movement that brought HipHop from the underground to the mainstream in Uganda. His captivating stories and mastery of MC rhyming in Uganda’s local language of Luganda advanced the art form of “Lugaflow” in Ugandan music. He has often said: “our Languages are our wealth”.
This newest release “The Spear” ties Uganda’s past together with present life in America where GNL has been living, introducing an inspirational, creative vision of a future. As GNL says, “the future is ancient.” The ancient symbol of a spear, in this album, is a spaceship!
“I want the whole world to sonically and spiritually travel back to their shared African origin,” GNL Zamba says of the album. “Here is where all the answers lie. Most new Africans have never been to this Africa. It is hidden in a dimension only open to those with the gift to look far back enough that they can see the future.”
“People are waking up to something,” GNL says, describing the album. “People are longing for more connection, more love, equality and wisdom. Many are realizing now that what you actually need is thriving relationships and community to stay functionally sane. We’re asking: Are we just tools for data mining, or where is this all going? We’re seeking a level of consciousness that improves us as human beings. It’s time to go back to where it all began.”
The album weaves together different styles of music, with its roots in HipHop, including a body of Ugandan traditional music samples, and wings of rock music and punk. The combination of musical influences are a nod to the black history inventions of Rock n Roll, with influences from Little Richard to Bad Brains. The album features drums by Tony Austin, who has performed with Kamasi Washington and Lauryn Hill among others, and bass guitar by Dante Pascuzzo from the Grammy winning band Quetzal. This is mixed together with the Ugandan HipHop style the artist is known for.
“I have evolved, but I’m still the same ol’ G” says GNL of his choice to combine HipHop with an Afropunk sound. “Rock takes the masks off. Through this sound, I feel I can express myself freely and unapologetically. Whatever I want to do musically, I’m going to do it. I want the world to feel and think deeply again about where they are from and where they are going.”
The Spear is a battle between dualities – chaos and peace, love and activism, past and present – wrestling to strike a balance so the listener may find personal serenity and social actualization. The album’s lyrics strike to the heart of themes that are ripe in public consciousness in Uganda. It advocates for a better way to approach the world’s shared social and spiritual challenges, from Covid-19 and elections to each and every person reaching our greatest potential through the way they live their day to day life.
The album was produced at L’Atelier Studios Los Angeles by Fly Tucker, and includes 11 tracks riffing on themes of African heritage, social change, personal and community empowerment. The opening track Africa is an empowering call to action, recognizing the shared African heritage of all people and challenging listeners to find answers in their common roots. Black Caesar is a hard hitting HipHop track, while NRG is a spiritual, futurist love song. Black Red Yellow Blue introduces traditional storytelling, but the story blends reality with a vision of our future.
No Borders relates both Ugandan and American anxieties about migration, uniquely rhyming Luganda and English lines. Sweet Uganda (Star Taffa) brings the musical style full circle back to sampling Ugandan music in a HipHop track, just what GNL is celebrated for. The title song, The Spear, draws on a Bakiga tribe dance tradition and calls for unity. Wake The Fuck Up and Who Got The Power channel an impatient and unapologetic energy, calling for awakening and social change. Zamba The Great relays a typical contemporary HipHop sound, while Zim Zim Bombo is based on a traditional Ugandan nursery song, coming back full circle once more to find empowerment in African roots.