GNL Zamba is a Ugandan musician who grew up surrounded by influences like Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Ice Cube, and Gil Scott-Heron. It’s a mixed bag of distinct artists that’s hard to imagine united under a single sound, but that’s what Zamba has achieved, and he’s now got millions of album sales under his belt and dozens of awards in his home country. His new LP, The Spear, takes that core mix of disparate influences and melds in even more stylistic unpredictability so the listener never knows where they’ll be taken next.
According to GNL Zamba, the concept of the album is about fusing Uganda’s past with present-day America, developing a revamped vision of the future:
“The future is ancient. I want the whole world to sonically and spiritually travel back to their shared African origin.”
First up is the beat-strong ‘Africa’ which blasts the listener straight into a hard rock/hip hop and electro hybrid packed with frenzied vocals that culminate with the triumphant line, “Fist in the air for Africa!”. Naturally, the lyrics are a testament to the strength of the continent, the history, and the drive of the people. There’s no chauvinism here, however; Zamba seeks to empower by reminding us that Africa is the cradle of human life, so we must remember our roots and move on without hate.
Next is ‘Black Ceasar’, a tune that carries the same rock/rap energy of the first but with a more playful theme that’s carried by poppier percussion. ‘No Borders’ melds cavernous bass tones on top of syncopated Afrobeats while sprinkles of reggae emerge through the bright, hoppy brass lines. The reggae influences are more pronounced on the easygoing ‘Energy (Nrg)’ which captures the vibe in both melody and word—the lyrics discuss consciousness, mindfulness, and all of us being a reflection of nature.
Some other highlights include the unambiguous ‘Wake The Fuck Up’, with its rolling, engorged basslines and glossy textures that impart a psychedelic feel. The spoken-word vocal approach here by Zamba adds that impassioned Gil Scott-Heron intensity to the music. The powerful political drive is unabated on ‘Who Got The Power’ as brutal drums and thick, gritty guitars give Zamba space to go wild with the vocals like Public Enemy:
“Who got the power, we got the power, you got the power.”
Somehow, ‘The Spear’ simultaneously feels like a political rally, a Bodycount gig, and a party all at once. GNL Zamba is deadly serious and undeterred in his message that emphasises humility, love, and unity, and according to him, the world is waking up to something new.
“People are longing for more connection, more love, equality and wisdom. Many are realizing now that what you actually need is thriving relationships and community to stay functionally sane. We’re asking: Are we just tools for data mining, or where is this all going? We’re seeking a level of consciousness that improves us as human beings. It’s time to go back to where it all began.”