Where We're Calling From
The Liminal Zone: Reflections on Duval Timothy’s Sen Am
Sen Am is an enduring and tender album, rich and beguiling and generous in a quiet way. Over the last few years, I find myself returning to it, listening and absorbing, reflecting on the voices and working through the multiple layers of feelings and themes it announces with confidence and equanimity. Notions of care and contradiction, expressions of joy and desire and the underlying feeling of unease and turmoil; there is an urgent appeal to the listener for generosity, to strengthen our capacity to hear multiple voices simultaneously, to exist in multiple places at once.
Duval Timothy’s music was dropped into our world from another realm sometime in the spring of 2017. We received the call and we answered it. The rhythm and spirit was transmitted via London’s NTS Radio on the Do!! You!!! Breakfast Show with Charlie Bones and a short while later we were listening to the first vinyl edition of Sen Am in our living room in Berlin. The record got a lot of plays (at home and at some shows, before and after performances). It was like sunlight filtering through a cracked window and remaining there for a moment, dancing. Blue music emanating from a liminal zone, an in-between space, somewhere on the outskirts of Freetown, or rural Sierra Leone, or the outer edges of South London, or Bath, UK, or some undisclosed orbit, unfixed location. The music is soaked in diasporic experiences. It refuses to settle but still invites us to enter and stay awhile in that zone, where multiple forms exist (all) together with jazz, hip-hop, various strands of expressive electronics and experimental music all breathing together and moving around. It is a portal to a place of possibilities, a space for building and repairing possible and lost connections. But life in that liminal zone is precarious; it is life under duress; under pressure – not merely the pressure to produce a presentable, categorizable, and salable body of work, but the pressure that compels us to experiment and create new concepts and things that will help us imagine a different existence, a way out of the turbulence.
Freetown is a marvellous and sometimes sad place. It is one of those unmistakable locations inscribed diasporic memory; a place that touches you, a place that holds you and demands you bear witness: witness to pain, poverty, joy and desire. You remember the voices and the eyes of people even in momentary encounters. In Sen Am, you hear not only Duval’s recollections and sounds of Freetown, you hear family and friendship, people coming together and forming bonds, creating surrogate families. Forging community wherever you go is a practice, and community is at the core of this music. It’s in all the voices, from Emmerson and 6pac to Aminata and Aruna. It opens up a space for Black voices, for Sierra Leonean voices, and those voices extend through the succeeding projects, the 2 Sim EP and the album Help, and all that radiates from Duval’s Carrying Colour imprint.
Thank you for the invitation to write about the album Sen Am, on the occasion of its re-release which also coincides with the release of the exquisite double 7” Smɔl Smɔl with cktrl — a wonderful piece which calls on the listener to play both records at the same time to hear the music or play them separately and hear different versions. Duval is strengthening us, encouraging us to feel comfortable with discomfort, with incompleteness, with the hard-to-understand. This is a beautiful thing.
Published: 9th July 2021