By Ekow Barnes
Turunesh is no stranger to the sonic territories, she has been dominating it for a long time. The East African Neo-Afro Soul songstress during her early days in Tanzania, unearthed her way with words as early as 9th grade where she first explored the art form of poetry, its rhymes and the rhythms that her words formed on her papers. Soon after, she went from writing to singing covers inspired by her favourite artists like Fela Kuti, Elliot Smith, and Salif Keita. Gradually she transitioned into writing and singing her own songs; a move that has earned 2 self-titled EPs, 4 singles and an album to her name.
Turunesh makes a return with a powerful sophomore album dubbed ‘Satin Cassette’. “The word satin came to mind when naming the song because I love how powerful satin makes me feel. The texture of the material is smooth, much like my brown skin, the weight of it is light and delicate, much like my spirit, and the appearance of it is undeniably powerful as my essence and spirit is” she recounts, fondly of her album.
With the name Satin Cassette already establishing the mood and tone of her album, the Tanzanian singer pays a delectable tribute exploring the synonymity of sex and music into a feast for the ears. She calls it “fabric music”; fluid, smooth and sensuous. Over the 12-tracked tape, Turunesh channels unfiltered emotions, a collection of teachings and experiences, skillfully weaving them into allusive poetic songs like Cigarette, Rum & Butter, Red Wine and Bantu Knots.
On her opening track ‘Cigarette”, she sings of the thrills of a first-time encounter and a dance. “Keep the freaky shit for private, you know me I’m shy” she sings, painting a nostalgic portrait that tells a relatable story of feelings of giving in when one is overcome by desire yet overwhelmed with coyness. She seamlessly transitions from a coy lover into an emboldened one late at night over her RnB/Soul song ‘Red Wine” and sings “Run your hands up my afro, we do not need to go anywhere” in Bantu Knots alluding to an intimate moment between black lovers. The jazzy beats and the sonorous vocals on Rum and Butter take listeners on a journey of corporeal bodies metamorphosing into spiritual spectrums of colour and flavour. Heavily relying on symbolism, she sings of coco, brown, butter, and rum to define the colours, texture and feel of sex between two black entities at the ethereal moments of midnight, and the heat of summer.
On the title track; sultry jitter sounds are mixed with her silky voice of gold for an Uber-sexual song. “Lick every crevice. When you kiss me there, I should be envious it's unfair. I want it everywhere” she commands, reminiscent of a woman caught in the transcendental world of lovemaking.
After which she shifts through English and Kiswahili; celebrating lush and sensual moments from the night before - on green hibiscus followed by Mojo Mojo; an interlude. Turunesh then hops on Space Spirit and Coco Marijuana and smoothly transitions into Tinga Tinga, joining forces with Ghanian soul singer; Efya. Together they sing of sacred female waters, the worshipping of a woman’s body.
She reaffirms her stance as an embrace of sexual liberation on Zanzibar Spice. She re-informs listeners of her mission; a lust brazen mission that challenges taboos about sexuality and speaking about desire. Emulating the essence of Bi kidude; the Tanzanian “Taarab'' music legend, Turunesh explores the ancient Swahili ‘Unyago’ ritual soundscapes. Fearlessly fusing taboo lexicons and coded explicit metaphors, she creates the perfect sensual euphonic Kiswahili sex anthem that also draws the curtain on her album.
Altogether, the songs on Satin Cassette “are so much more than just sex music.” The tracks are sweet-sounding activism- breaking barriers, confronting taboos, attacking the senses and subduing listeners into a trance of self-adoration. If anything, it proves that Turunesh is the multi-faceted singer/songwriter turning rebellion against cultural taboos into sweet music for the ears.
All images were shot by Carl Ostberg