GrisVer, possibly one of Malawi’s most forward-thinking and experimental artists with the potential to conquer global charts, presents a unique musical journey in his sophomore album, ‘The Sands Dance Forever’. Unlike other young artists from Malawi striving for Grammy success, GrisVer stands as a promising contender for this prestigious achievement, as illustrated by ‘The Sands Dance Forever’.
His second album continues the sonic exploration that began with his debut, ‘Knight of Long Knives’, blending various genres like electric dance music (EDM), hip-hop, drill, grime, trap, Afro-Malawian fusion with ingoma, M’ganda/malipenga, and some sprinkles of honola for an afro-futurist genre.
‘The Sands Dance Forever’ offers a gigantic promise of a Pan-African perspective, and it unquestionably delivers on that promise. It incorporates a myriad of sounds from across the African continent, skillfully woven together with the energetic structure and technical finesse of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). In GrisVer’s own words, “This fusion creates the perfect harmony between the sounds, as all musical borders are erased, forming the perfect sonic embodiment of a unique multicultural experience”.
In a heartfelt message, GrisVer said that ‘The Sands Dance Forever’ “took a lot of learning, unlearning, and seeking help in areas where I was not the strongest”.
Standout tracks from this album include ‘African Vibration’, ‘Snake Skin’, where Quest MW, Episodz, P Wynter literally ‘Dance with the Sands’ on an afro-trap beat. ‘Presidential’ continues with a fusion of Trap, Drill, and Afrofuturist. The poignant delivery and arrangement seen in these two songs continues seven tracks later with ‘Mama Wane’, and ‘Yekete, Yekete’ brings CD 1 to a close conclusion before ‘Nsanje’, despite its disconnect from that arrangement except for the beat alignment, perfectly concludes CD 1.
‘The Sands Dance Forever’ boasts an impressive ensemble of artists from Africa, comprising 22 tracks that span a duration of 1 hour and 18 minutes. GrisVer reflects on the album’s creation, stating, “It has taken me almost two years to make this album. Along the way, I’ve rediscovered myself, my sound, and my passion. This is a celebration of my African heritage, my Malawian roots, and what makes us unique. This is a coming together of two different sounds from two different worlds. This is a dance of the ancestors”.
However, the album is not without its flaws. The interlude that connects CD 2 with CD 1, titled “He Who Bites The Sand,” is certainly out of place. While it may attempt to showcase Malawi’s diversity, the inclusion of a Christian-themed track feels somewhat disjointed within the album’s broader context. It’s akin to a patch on a denim jean or, as it emerged this week in South Africa, like Fikile Mbalula in a mismatched Dolce & Gabbana outfit, which was flaunted in what felt like a mockery of the majority of South Africans struggling with poverty by the ruling ANC’s Secretary General before the Springboks took on The All Blacks of New Zealand.
This incongruity is a noticeable hiccup. ‘He Who Bites The Sand’ is not “a dance of the ancestors”. How do you connect the Pan-African philosophy with the rhythm of Christianity in this interlude, considering the role non-native religions played in the colonisation of Africa and oppression of its people? The interlude, especially, makes it a thorn in the wrong place – and literally so in the context of this extraordinary album.
That interlude nearly overshadows the extraordinary talent showcased across the album, even if some may find its 23 songs and interludes unnecessarily lengthy. ‘The Sands Dance Forever’ remains a gem of exceptional quality. This is probably why ‘When I’m Alone With You’ and ‘Qina’ attempt to erase the impact of ‘He Who Bites The Sand’ on the listeners, surely making you forget why you persistently question the logic of having that interlude in the synergy that connects CD 1 and CD 2. Supported by ‘Jabari,’ ‘Elephant March,’ ‘Burn The Fire – VIP,’ and ‘GOAT,’ CD 2 delivers something that very few Malawian artists can achieve, bringing ‘The Sands Dance Forever’ to a perfect close.
Overall, GrisVer’s ‘The Sands Dance Forever’ is a brilliant exploration of musical diversity and cultural fusion. While there is room for improvement in the album’s cohesion, GrisVer’s talent and dedication shine through, making this album a must-listen for fans of innovative and genre-defying music.
Pan-Africanism in urban music is not dead!