Arts & Culture : Abimaro & the Free
‘Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.’
Act V scene 3 Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare
I remember the first time I was introduced to Abimaro & the Free. Frustrated by the pithy lyrics of mainstream love songs and the hip swaying beats that at best have dubious lyrics and at worst are purely misogynistic, lyrical integrity and poetic creativity had long been absent from my iTunes repertoire. Then, in early November a friend sent me an EP entitled Books, and I whimsically pressed play, and kept on pressing play for two weeks straight.
Described as a fusion of Joni Mitchell and Esperanza Spalding, Abimaro & the Free is comprised of three musicians, Abimaro Suit on lead vocals, James Basset, bass and vocals and Alex Montaque, keys and vocals. ‘Three friends from south London’, the trio met at Goldsmiths College, London and have been making music since 2009.
With melodies that are a beautiful concoction of carefully placed chords and mellifluous vocals, the band’s subtle yet grooving bass line fills out their exquisitely worded and humorously constructed lyrics, giving Abimaro & the Free an organic lyricism and freshness that is sorely absent from mainstream playlists.
Using conceits such as tea making in their debut single ‘Ginger Tea’, the process of being refined isn’t simply couched in terms of getting older or wiser, but likened to the delicate process of grinding and frying sweet ginger until one’s flavor is ‘lemon gold’. Perfection is a process of drinking, with the quaint line ‘sip away, sip away, tell me lover, what you taste in me, sweetly warmed beautifully born, what d’ya taste in me’, shimmering throughout the 3 minute track. Abimaro’s voice bubbles and caramelizes just like her ingenious lyrics, sifting between the simple bass line with a haunting ephemerality and delicately soulful warmth.
Yet, aside from their poetic ingenuity, what makes this band so exquisite is not just their well crafted music, or their Ginger Tea Tour funded by the Arts Council England which brought live music to independent coffee shops across the UK, but rather, their ability to explore the Christian faith in an accessible, stripped down recounting of the heart.
The EP Books, echoes with a solemnity which lingers in the heart long after the final trill of ‘Jerusalem’ fades at the close of the first track, ‘Matthew’. Tear stained eyes are transformed from ‘deepest cinnamon’ into ‘Earl Grey’ tea whilst ‘John’ expresses the doubter in all of us, with the opening lines ‘saw the scars in your hands, wondered where all the loaves and the fishes went, did the fishes swim away to?’ piercing through the sparse chords and thrumming bass.
Characterized by an intense intimacy which is emphasized through their musical simplicity and the warmth of Abimaro’s voice, Abimaro and the Free have managed to delicately reinterpret and represent the Word as a living, breathing and evocative presence in the lives of very real, very normal humans, poetically depicting how they relate to the mystery of God in today’s world.
Whether one believes in a benign creator or simply wants to hear music that is fresh, humorous and organic, Abimaro & the Free are a band that should be firmly situated on your musical radar. Having performed at the Albany as part of World Women’s Day, the band have recently been depositing their EP around London for free. With lyrics that briefly transform the grey tinge of mundanity into Technicolor, Abimrao & the Free are a testament to the ability of today’s music to beautifully and honestly capture both a vulnerability and integrity of human experience so often lost on the radio waves. Unlike Shakespeare’s lament which opened this review, Abimaro & the Free have plenty of words and each of them contests powerfully with matters of the heart.
Check out their music on bandcamp, where you can listen to their debut album, Ginger Tea, for free.
Words by Justina Kehinde