Our bodies remember. They remember when we tried to show off on the trampoline at 33, they remember when we fell on our roller skates at 5, our first heartbreak, the loss of a dear friend. If we pay attention they keep track of all the moments in our lives, big or small, joyous or full of grief. Sometimes, especially with the unpleasant, we pile the moments on top of each other and push them deep inside, and if we aren’t careful they come out in unexpected ways, there’s only so much room in there after all. But In their newest release Hymne à la Vie, Pat Kalla and Le Super Mojo challenge us to release all that we’ve boxed away. Hymne à la Vie, released May 28th, asks us what might it feel like to live in an unencumbered body, one that feels but does not absorb, one that breaths in the joy and the pain and the burden and the love and uses that as fuel for movement, not weight to tie us down.
Pat Kalla makes Black music. He tells the story of Blackness, from Africa to all the tentacles the slave trade created. There is a lot of pain there, but Kalla sees music as a way to transform that. In Colombian barrios dance parties are called Terapia, therapy, a chance to release the weight and pain that comes with living on the margins; Kalla calls it medicine. I was impressed that for an album built on a foundation of expressing and releasing pain the songs were so lively and light. Kalla’s sweet, bright voice is perfectly paired with the magical melodies of Le Super Mojo and together they create great joy out of the sadness.
“Cumbia de Paris” is a song that I have been humming since I first heard it. It’s catchy and fun and keeps you light on your feet as any good cumbia would. This song reminds us not only of the playfulness and flirtation in any good love story but of the destruction of a forced diaspora. Cumbia is Colombian in origin but its roots began in Guinea. The way he weaves cumbia into his story about Africa is a reconciliation of sorts. A recognition of a painful history that we can only release if we confront it. “Le Métèque” has a similar aim; to allow the pain of a slur directed at immigrants to escape through the movement of your body. This song is a reworking of a classic, originally sung by Georges Moustaki in 1969, it became an anthem of sorts in French musical culture as a statement of anti-racism, allowing the singer the agency and ability to embrace the term as a form of self-definition. Instead of the melancholy tone of the original or the in-your-face aggression of later versions, Pat Kalla and Le Super Mojo created a funky high spirited defiance. Their version will get you on the dancefloor singing along to the lyrics “I’ve got a sad face” with an ironically large grin.
There is something incredibly cathartic to this album. The goal is not to make you numb to your pain or to ignore it or even to laugh in the face of it. The goal is to embrace it, to love it and thank it, to accept that it is an inevitable part of a full life and it can be our ally if we let it.