(Given Back The) Kingdom

I have to admit that it’s a little baffling to now have songs in my repertoire that are now ten years old. This is one such example – I wrote Kingdom some time in 2006/2007, one of the first songs composed for my old band the Lazy Lizards (who were then rather painfully called Los Crocodilos).

This performance is a very basic iteration captured last December while on holiday in southern Egypt. We were staying at Fekra, a cultural centre dedicated to championing the cultural heritage of the Nubian people of Egypt and Sudan. Fekra’s living room has a hexagonal design which provides a really nice acoustic sound. I spent a couple of night’s jamming with my friend Watter al Bahry, who plays the daff (دُفْ in Arabic). Kingdom sounded really good – so we spontaneously decided to record it. It was only the second time Watter had heard the song, thus the simple arrangement. My wife also started adding a little tambourine, before thinking better of it!

When I used to perform Kingdom with the Lazy Lizards it was a far greater beast. We recorded the version you can hear above in our very first studio session for our first EP. Our skills playing, arranging and recording were still coming together, so there are a few rough edges. The studio was a temporary set-up in a grand old Victorian house in Moseley, Birmingham, which was being rented by eight young musicians. As a result, the living room we set up in was full with about a dozen different drums from around the world the tenants had collected, and we resolved to use all of them in the extended outro to the song. You can even hear the sound of a jam jar of nails smashing at the close of the kit solo, as the vibrations of the drums shook the jar off the mantelpiece more or less in time.

Kingdom became a feature over most of our gigs across three years, and evolved out of the amorphous recorded version into a closely scripted mini-samba. It also blossomed into a different song, as the basis of Set Sail While The Ship Still Floats is simply an extension of Kingdom’s groove with an extra chord added.

samba-lizards-kingdom
the samba break-down at the end of this performance included drum kit, cajon, timpany, djembe, bongos, clave, bells, handclaps and shouts!

I wrote the song shortly after leaving Uni, where my subject had been African Studies. As well as influencing the musical component of Kingdom, this also led the direction of the lyrics. The song addresses the hypocrisy of the end of the colonial era in Africa, where the Western powers made a great show of granting independence to their African territories even as the legacies they left ensured the failure of these new states. A number of African animals appear throughout the song, most importantly the lion as an emblem of Africa’s pride, power and potential.

(Given Back The) Kingdom

Verse 1

My rivers don’t run no more

This eagle don’t care to soar

And this thirsty, skin and bone lion

Don’t have tongue to roar

Verse 2

I go in search of shade

Kneel and pray for aid

But no help come, these dry tears falls

The lion flees in dismay

Chorus

Given back the kingdom, you gonna call this freedom

Given back the kingdom, you gonna call this freedom

You know that giving back a skin

That’s not giving back anything

Is your conscience spread so thin?

Would you dare compound this sin?

Verse 3

A forest lying on its side

Men do what the termites tried

 Gone the trees and gone the beasts

The lion don’t have no pride

Verse 4

The half-moon shining pale

The harvest once again has failed

And the jackals, wolves and snakes

Lie hungry on the lion’s tail

Chorus

Given back the kingdom, you gonna call this freedom

Given back the kingdom, you gonna call this freedom

Because giving back a skin

That’s not giving back anything

Is your conscience spread so thin?

Would you dare compound this sin?

Outro

Mosquito buzz, hyena leer, the vulture flap and the baboon cheer

Mosquito buzz, hyena leer, the vulture flap and the baboon cheer

(Given Back The) Kingdom

This Country’s In Its Death Throes

I think I’ll keep this one brief, but here’s an apposite song for this morning.  This Country’s In Its Death Throes is a song I wrote a couple of years ago. It probably wouldn’t wise to specify the actual country that it was written about, and I think one of the most interesting things is that it has felt fitting at times to a wide number of places I’ve lived in. It could be Malaysia after the 1MDB scandal, Vietnam after Formosa, Britain after Brexit, or Egypt after its currency collapse.

But this morning, it’s about America.

THIS COUNTRY’S IN ITS DEATH THROES

VERSE 1

Why doesn’t anyone look up to see?

We’re sailing into bad territory

Why doesn’t anyone move to act?

Now the gates of doom have cracked

A newborn, stillborn sun burns black

On golden-girded cities sacked

And the wild beasts clamber up and crow

This country’s in its death throes

CHORUS

Raise your head, raise your consciousness

Raise the questions that were left unsaid

Why doesn’t anyone seem to know?

This country’s in . . . its death throes

VERSE 2

Why doesn’t anyone look up to see?

The blade descending on our liberty

Why doesn’t anyone move to act?

Obliviously under attack

Is there no one else who mourns?

Old ways and faces no longer worn

And a country of such beauty brought so low

This country’s in its death throes

CHORUS

Raise your head, raise your consciousness

Raise the questions that were left unsaid

Why doesn’t anyone seem to know?

This country’s in . . . its death throes

VERSE 3

And so the wicked few look down to see

A vault full of dirty money

Corruption crowns its upstart kings

In chains and shades and jewelled rings

The gold you called the spoils of war

Enrich yourself, leave the people poor

Each and every petty tyrant knows

This country’s in its death throes

CHORUS

Raise your head, raise your consciousness

Raise the questions that were left unsaid

Why doesn’t anyone seem to know?

This country’s in . . . its death throes

OUTRO

Why?

Doesn’t anyone look up to see?

Why?

A blade descending on out liberty?

Why?

Doesn’t anyone seem to know?

Why?

A country in its death throes

Why?

pig

This Country’s In Its Death Throes