Tuesday 10 October 2023

'還 (Kaeru)' by Eki Shola

Now on the release of her milestone fifth album, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer Eki Shola has cultivated a strong reputation for her inspired and all-encompassing approach to music-making.  

With past releases 'Final Beginning', 'Possible' and 'Drift' lauded for their uncanny fusion of jazz, soul, beats and twinges of electronica, this genre-less and broad perspective has long been indicative of Shola's overarching musical vision.  What is so striking about Shola's music is the fact that each release represents the continual evolution of an artist that is committed to the exploration.  

And it's an incredibly endearing and sincere approach to music - the notion that each release is a result of its own snapshot in time and serves as reflective of Shola's continual journey.  Born in London before moving to California at a young age, Shola's experiences seem to have blessed her with an insatiable appetite for learning - a qualified physician, Shola has poured just as much of herself into her music as evidenced on current release, '還 (Kaeru)', which credits the artist's boundless talents throughout the album to vocals, cello, keyboard, piano, synth bass, electronics, composition, production, mixing and mastering.  

It's a project that builds masterfully upon past successes with Shola's explorations taking not just a creative leap for this release but a geographic one as well.  Recorded in Japan alongside musicians Hidenori Tsugita (drums), Tatsuya Okabayashi (Mongolian Morin Khuur) and Uma Ebina (Shamisen and shakuhachi), the combination of cultural styles breeds sensational results and provides an incredible new aesthetic to anything we've heard Shola bless previously.

A selection of YouTube videos recently uploaded to Shola's channel provide further fascinating insight into how she had perhaps envisioned these seemingly worlds-apart elements coming together for a full album with the ten tracks across this release really accentuating these disparate musical elements fusing exquisitely together.

The enchanting slow-build of 'The Opening' kicks the album off beautifully before making way for the more hip-hop-inspired 'For You'.  The haunting 'Forest' exudes real charisma as does the brilliant 'Not Afraid to Hope'.  The potential album highlight however is possibly found in the project's '還 (Kaeru)' title track which, as do so many of the album's tracks, really represents the absolute best of what Shola is striving to achieve on the album.

'還 (Kaeru)' really delivers as a triumph for Eki Shola in so many ways.  We mentioned the concept of exploration earlier which represents such pure-of-heart intentions within an artist's own music - while this album has perhaps challenged Shola musically, the record further sees exploration on more personal levels.  Always one to wear her heart on her sleeve, past releases have found Shola tackle themes of personal tragedy and address issues revolving around Black Lives Matter, but '還 (Kaeru)' more openly embraces the notion of identity and belonging.   

There's a James Baldwin quote that reads "Home is not a place but an irrevocable condition".  If we take that as truth then home can be anywhere or anything - home can be the place you grew up, it can be the comfort of creating music in a studio sat in front of a microphone or it can be the freedom to travel the world using those experiences to shape your own unhindered perspective.  I don't know if Eki Shola was in fact searching for something when she created '還 (Kaeru)', but I hope she found it.  Or at least realised she had it all along.

1 comment:

  1. "Or at least realised she had it all along.! " That is exactly how I felt when listened to this album. I felt like I was coming home. Reminds me of the Ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.