Y’all ready for a crossover? Basic Folk listeners will remember Mali Obomsawin from their work as a bassist, singer, and songwriter with folk trio Lula Wiles, but today we are celebrating Mali’s debut as a jazz bandleader/composer. Mali’s new album, Sweet Tooth, was inspired by field recordings of elders from Mali’s Wabanaki community.
Mali’s improvisational approach to creating music results in a remarkable living piece of music that not only illustrates hundreds of years of their people’s history, but also illuminates their hopes for the rematriation of Native lands. One of the most insidious lies about Native people in the Americas is that they are relics of the past, not constantly-evolving communities. Through their music and activism, Mali refutes this claim. The record weaves field recordings with intense instrumentals and Mali’s stunning voice. They even co-wrote a Penobscot language chant to close the album. Sweet Tooth confronts heartbreaking history while insisting upon a path forward. It is at turns heartbreaking, jarring, tender, and fun.
Those who are interested in learning more about the concept of intersectionality will find this episode of Basic Folk fascinating. Mali and I dig deep into what it looks like to embrace gender freedom while remaining loyal to the bonds shared by women of color within a hostile colonial culture.
Editor’s Note: Basic Folk is currently running their annual fall fundraiser! Visit basicfolk.com/donate for a message from hosts Cindy Howes and Lizzie No, and to support this listener-funded podcast.
Photo Credit: Abby and Jared Lank