Upon receiving Eric Bibb's new album our first, rather underwhelming thought was: what's a griot? For many others who might have the same response, here's Webster's definition:
Griot: a member of a class of travelling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa.
Logically, a 'global' griot would then expand the scope from West Africa to the world at large; the blue marble with all its inhabitants: humanity, wildlife, nature. Wow! That's a lot! And probably the first indication as to why Bibb has released a double CD. Eric has a lot to say to us both in terms of lyrics as in music.
As we furthered our exploration of the album - and are now reflecting back on it - we have come to the conclusion that this release could not have been titled anything else but "Global Griot". It is a title that is true on so many levels and from so many different perspectives. This album is - absent of in-depth knowledge of Bibb's oeuvre - his most eclectic and probably his most ambitious project ever released.
The timing of the release is perfect to begin with. As we are nearing the end of this year, heading for the festive season with plenty of opportunity to reflect, Bibb is shouting to us in his very understated signature manner: PEOPLE WAKE UP!!
Lyrically and thematically the album tells the story of humanity, the human condition, from Bibb's perspective, touching base on all the important and relevant aspects that touch, affect, include and involve all of us: community, finance, caring, sharing, race and culture, love, faith, hope and despair, cause and effect, vision and falsehood, time…
The lyrics - the oral history - are being reflected musically in ever so many ways that go well beyond the realm of Blues. Bibb has laid out a tapestry of different musical styles, a fabric of closely woven and interlocking fibres that come natural to the listener. We could label the music in so many ways that we might miss out on the purpose, the meaning of it all. As you may know us by now we are not of the labelling kind, so what is the meaning of all this?
Let's try another analogy. Master Chef Bibb is serving us so many different dishes and flavours - 24 in total - that there is simply no way of denying what he has on offer. You'll have to try at least one dish and there is certainly one that will appeal to you.
Chef Bibb hasn't cooked up these dishes out of some casual let's-try-to-please-everybody commercial stratagem though; the music and the man are way too sincere for that. No, we feel this menu has been crafted very delicately and deliberate. Why? What is the reason behind this all? This is not just another album release.
If we were to sum up the album into one central overarching theme, one keyword, that really concerns its creator it would be this: MIGRATION.
Where Bibb's previous release 'Migration Blues' was predominantly a well-crafted Blues on migration, Bibb, so we feel, goes in overdrive on the topic with this album. The theme is there in every track. You might not notice it because of all the coloration in music and word, but it is there. It is the backbone, the frame, on which this multi-coloured tapestry was woven; it's the fire underneath the stove upon which this meal was cooked.
And rightly so.
Migration in all its aspects is the single biggest issue that is affecting us and will deeply affect us, humanity, for the foreseeable future. We are only at the beginning of the quest. Eric Bibb has identified the problem as well as the solution and has set out to tell us about it - as a griot would do.
Reviewed by UbuntuFM World Radio
For more on Eric Bibb read the 'UbuntuFM meets Eric Bibb' interview we conducted earlier this year.