MusicFrom the heart
Eugene Snowden & Liberation 44
with Rubox Cube, S.K.I.P.
8 p.m. Friday, May 7
Liberation 44, the latest project from Legendary JC’s singer Eugene Snowden, finds the charismatic frontman melding his love of soul and international music. Unlike the genesis of many bands, however, it was not birthed in the smoky haze of a late-night jam session or in the post-show glow of an inspiring performance. It was born, like many of us are, in a hospital bed.
“It started, believe it or not, [in] mid-February when I went to the hospital again,” says Snowden. “Before, when I had a heart attack [a cardiac episode a couple of years ago almost permanently sidelined the singer], some of the enzymes in my blood were making it so I was likely to have a heart attack again; it wasn’t my health [that put him back in the hospital], it was just this leftover stuff from the heart attack I had. They got rid of it, but I have to change some of the things that I’m doing.
“Anyway, I’m laying in the hospital bed, thinking about stuff I want to do – because that’s what you do when you’re laid up in the hospital – and I was thinking that I really wanted to go back to what Umoja [the mid-’90s Afrobeat outfit that was Snowden’s first full-time band in Orlando] was doing. I wanted to wait until the JC’s record was done, but now, with Liberation 44, I’m doing what the hell I’ve always wanted to do, which is play international music. I want to do the JC’s – I’m still loving doing that – but I also want to go back to where I started. That’s where I started, playing world music, international music.”
While there is a primacy and back-to-the-roots story behind the formation of Liberation 44, the band is not designed as a lesson in purity or simplicity. Having corralled several members of the JC’s current lineup as well as some other local players to round out the roster, Snowden is aiming this new project straight for the listener’s gut. Instead of attempting the sort of snoozy, academic authenticity that many “world musicians” strive for, Snowden is firmly of the belief that soul music is everywhere, and the more of it he can jam into each song – regardless of provenance – the better.
“I want to take all these international sounds – not just African music – and mix it up with soul music. Nothing is in its pure form,” says Snowden. “There’s no West African stuff – that’s Umoja’s territory – but there’s everything else. East Africa, South Africa … we’re taking from Romania, Brazil, European stuff; it could be gnawa [from Morocco] or township jazz, it could be MPB [Música Popular Brasileira] or samba. We’ll be singing in English, but the background vocals might be in French or Portuguese.
“It’s soulful,” he emphasizes. “I wanna sing like I sing with the JC’s. That ’60s soul, gospel, blues stuff that I do with the JC’s, that’s what I grew up with. The international stuff is what I discovered on my journey, what I grew into, so the goal with this group is to meld those two things; the thread that runs through everything is that soul thread. So even if I’m singing some Romanian song, it’s gonna sound like me.”