It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since Desire Marea graced us with his debut album. With a nearly aquatic feeling, that album showed immense promise through it’s intriguing blend of Art pop and Electronic explorations, leaving anyone who heard it wanting more.
That wish is finally set to be granted, as Marea has announced his return via the approaching On The Romance Of Being, arriving April 7 through Mute.
To say the least, he hasn’t spent the last few years idly, using the time to train as a Sangoma, a traditional Nguni spiritual healer, a role deeply connected to one’s ancestors and spirits. Marea shares: “In my work as a sangoma, ancient songs and drumming sequences are used to invoke spirits who live in me so I enter into a trance state. In my work as a musician, I heal people using music. It’s a different kind of medicine but one in which I often have to channel different spirits, different truths and the essence of light.“
All this led to quite a different musical exploration for the artist, departing from the sound of his first LP in favor of a work that was recorded live with thirteen musicians, many of whom are important figures with the South African experimental scene, with much of the record being composed of first takes. He reflects: “My ancestors gave me an instruction to record this with a live band. The reasoning? It was a way to ensure that the music carried the soul. We were all united in the most intimate parts of our consciousness. The music made us one.“
What resulted is an album that coils between jazz, post-gospel, and the ancient music of the Nguni and Ndau peoples. As a first look at the complex structure of the LP, today, Marea shares “Be Free”, an intricate track which finds him chastising a former lover on their lack of ability to fully free themselves to the moment.
On the track, Marea states: “One of my heroes, Marlon Riggs, said “Black men loving black men is THE revolutionary act”. Be Free is a love story about two black men loving each other through the crisis of masculinity. It’s set in South Africa’s hypermasculine world of taxi gangs, one of the many places where gay men exist often under a layer of oppression that’s in addition to the homophobic violence of the world at large. It was important for me to tell this story because love, even under such conditions, is always a story worth telling. And freedom is always something worth fighting for.“
The song itself drifts between nearly flirtatious, danceable grooves and crashing, tense moments. Check it out, along with its video, below, or find it on streamers.