If I were to describe to someone else what type of music I listen to, I would say soul is at the centre of it. When I google soul music, it is characterised by “intensity of feeling and vocal embellishments”. What resonates most with me is the former. The litmus test for me is usually whether I can wear noise-cancelling headphones, close my eyes and feel myself transported into another world. There is something both mystical and hallucinatory about this experience.
Nujabes is whom I consider to be the master of my definition of soul music. He has seven total projects, and for a period of s months I listened to them exclusively. For once I discovered the transformative powers of his works, I was hooked. My favourite of his projects are Modal Soul, Metaphorical Music, Spiritual State, and Impression. The names of these projects don’t do justice to their ability to transport my imagination, they make listening to music a full-body experience. The soul is mixed with hip-hop and jazz resulting in such an unexpectedly smooth product. It is a soundtrack that really elevates doing simple things like chores, and my favourite, walking in the bustling city centre.
Perhaps unsurprisingly I find a similar feeling with electronic and house music. This is exemplified no better than with Kaytranada. While soul is not the obvious connection people would make to those genres, I find it difficult to disassociate the intensity of feeling I get from listening to his 99.9% record. It is almost hypnotic. If I close my eyes and listen to him with the sun shining on me, I can immediately conjure up some beach party somewhere exotic. I could the same about a lot of Kayatranada’s contemporaries like SG Lewis, Rejjie Snow, Masego, etc.
The most obvious association to soul is R&B and rightly so. With the likes of Daniel Caesar and Frank Ocean leading the way, it is in good hands. I find, however, that studio recorded versions of records don’t have as much impact as live recordings. For R&B specifically I prefer the imperfections of a live session, for whatever reason, the intensity of feeling I get from listening to those is a lot higher. I am grateful to the COLORS channel on YouTube as they have provided many such recordings available.