Modern Griots Review: On Imani Uzuri’s Journey…
Imani Uzuri’s The Gypsy Diaries
We all are torn between home and the desire to wander. Home is where we feel we belong, where we feel safe, and where our family and friends reside. However, wandering takes us to new places where we learn wisdom follow our dreams and find out more about ourselves. It is that constant prodigal cycle that Imani Uzuri explores in her hauntingly resonant The Gypsy Diaries.
Inspired by her travels to countries like Russia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Amsterdam and Ireland, Uzuri takes a more introspective approach to her second album. Filled with strings, woodwinds, soft percussion and Uzuri’s deep, stirring voice, the songs are so soothing that it is easy to not notice time passing and feel oneself drifting into the depths of a universal soul.
Opening with the track “Beautiful,” The Gypsy Diaries fuses a worldly eclecticism of instruments, melodies, rhythms, and musical styles together, including the Indian string instrument, the sitar, and Middle Eastern frame drum, the daf, as well as the Indian melodic mode, the raga. Through the use of these acoustic instruments, Uzuri ties the various cultural sounds to her own US Southern background (North Carolina) in songs like “I Sing the Blues” and “Soul Still Sings,” a heartfelt tribute to her grandmother. These songs are reminiscent of spirituals and praise songs, only now in a new context. The bluesy elements of her album show in other songs, as in “Gathering.” She even delves into the operatic and dramatic in flowing harmonies with her own voice in “Meet Me at the Station.”
Listening to Imani Uzuri’s album, it teaches that traveling is not just physical but also the journey of the spirit. She takes the risk of opening herself and the listeners to the world of love and heartbreak, of togetherness and loneliness, of finding and searching, and comes out strong. As Uzuri sings in “I Sing the Blues,” traveling is walking “by faith and not by sight” to “see the invisible” and “feel the intangible.”