The Soul Of Trinidad: Ella Andall’s Sango Baba Wa

Now, I have been blessed to meet and have the formidable, incredible Ella Andall teach me a song or two to sing for the Orishas.

Ella is a Goddess. A real Goddess. When you are in her presence, the thing that strikes you most is one, how her beauty transcends conventional thoughts on what it is, and two, how POWERFUL a woman she is.

Because I grew up in Barbados and not in Trinidad, my exposure to Ella’s music has been slight during my formative years. However, it’s hard not to go to Orisha shrines, or visit with Shrine Mothers and Fathers and not hear Ella’s music playing somewhere in the background.

More than that, one of the people who brought me to Orisha is her husband.

Ella is the Voice of Trinidad Orisha. The power, strength and sheer awesome talent of her voice is overwhelming, and many people will tell you her ability to raise the gooseflesh on your skin is legendary.

Imagine being in a tight space with it. I wrote about my experience learning songs from the Orisha with her (albeit truncated), almost two years ago, and believe me the experience still resonates with me. What I remember most about that night, other than the Orisa coming down, was her singing… all of us singing.

Like Yao Ramesar one of Trinidad’s handful of talented filmmakers said, in an interview with the Sunday Express, in 2001, “I have always loved her music. It has raised my pores consistently over the years. For me she ranks right up there with Bille Holiday, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Miriam Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald.”

I agree.

TillahWillah skated through here yesterday and hung out with me for a good handful of hours, and I ripped her iPod, but all I got was Ella Andall’s release last year, “Sango Baba Wa” and Grupo Oba Ilu’s “SANTERIA – Songs For The Orishas”.

Wunna, me ain’t even play two songs in the “Grupo Oba Ilu” yet. The playcount in my iScrobbler tracker for “Sango Baba Wa” is 349 plays at this posting, and I’ve had it for less than 24 hours.

This is a the tightest set of songs for any Orisa I have heard since I dance in feast in deep, deep Southern Trinidad. To the point is making me homesick!

Ella’s voice floats, sweet grinds, belts, shouts and croons over some tight, tight, tight drumming of Sango rhythms. 24 tracks deep, with an average 2 minute track length, this is soul stirring singing in Yoruba for the King of Oyo, Sango, the Thunder in the sky, Owner of The Double Headed Axe.

With good reason the average track is 2 minutes, 1 and half minutes long. Orisa music is meant to call down the Orisa, to coax the Orisa into manifestation and it is a carefully orchestrated sublimated message to the singers and dancers to allow the Orisa to mount. Just listening to some of these tracks that are a minute or two long, is enough for my head to tingle, my spine to crackle and for me to feel as if I had just stuck my finger into an electric socket, something, I must tell you, I haven’t really felt since I left Trinidad. Not even at the bembe I attended some months ago.

Interestingly, since I got back some sort of regular Internet Access towards the end of April this year, I’ve been collecting Orisa music from across the Diaspora. I’ve got about 400 tracks. Which of course is not all, could never be all, and quite alot of it I like, but nothing I’ve listened to so far has moved me as much as this collection.

Maybe it’s my emotional connection. It’s from home, I know the singer and some of the musicians. But I think even without my own connection, this music would move anyone who loves African music.

What I think is amazing is that the tracks move smoothly from one to the next, almost as if it was recorded in one take and they faded only slightly between each one. This is Sango party music for Oni Sango. No joke…

It is with deep pleasure I listen, because as I listen I can hear the drumming of a man who first taught me about the Orisas, a friend of my father’s old friends, and I man I still respect, despite all that has happened since we first met almost four years ago.

The star is and always will be Ella’s voice in this superb collection. I wish I could tell you all, here is a link, go and buy, but this CD is available nowhere on the Internet to buy. If it were, I would buy it and copies of it to give as gifts, because it is a gift. It is a gift Iya Ella has given to Trinidad Orisa, to Orisha across the Diaspora and to the World. I plan to buy it when I can, because I want to support Ella’s life work, and because I believe in the Kwanzaa principle of cooperative economics.

However, I can point you to where you can buy a copy of her Oriki Ogun, which I have unfortunately not been able to get as yet. I have heard it though, played all over and it’s beautiful.

This is the music steelpan came from. It is the music that gospel comes from, and it is spiritually uplifting music at it’s very best, and I am glad Ella Andall is alive to record the beauty of the songs we sing in Trinidad for the Orisas.

A must for people who are Oni Sango (children of Sango), people in the uniqueness of Trinidad Orisa music, fans of Ella, and lovers of the Orisa everywhere.

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