On DNA ACTIVATION, Toronto based singer/songwriter Witch Prophet explores personal identity, and the places it intersects with family and cultural lineage. “Where do we go from here?,” sings Witch Prophet over rolling upright bass and luminous vibraphone on album opener “MUSA.” “Falling through darkness, and we cannot see the light.”
The album’s sonic blueprint spans whole styles and continents, with dusty hip-hop beats, co-produced by SUN SUN, sharing space with traces of Ethiopian jazz. Witch Prophet sings in Amharic, English, and Tigrinya, and the songs—each named for a member of Witch Prophet’s family—is both strikingly modern and clearly influenced by traditional East African melodies. On DNA ACTIVATION, past and present are simultaneous.
“TESFAY” combines a tight, bubbling bassline with crisp, Tony Allen-style drumming as Witch Prophet sings about showing off and shining, while Karen Ng’s deft saxophone lines twist alongside her. Album standout “DARSHAN” is a sweet, jazzy lullaby, with Witch Prophet singing of the deep, transformative love she has for her son: “Never felt a love like this before/ You chose me and changed me/ I am so grateful/ What a gift, what a joy, my baby boy.” The rhythm on “ROMAN” goes from loose and bouncing to lockstep boom-bap, held together by a repeated piano loop. And on “MAKDA” Witch Prophet assumes the persona of the biblical Ethiopian Queen Makeda, celebrating her own black excellence in tandem with her family history and cultural lineage. An album of family, spirituality, and self-actualization, DNA ACTIVATION connects the historical with the cultural and the personal for a record where ancestry and autobiography become one and the same.