Loah is Sallay Matu Garnett, an artist of Irish / Sierra Leonean origin who grew up between Maynooth and West Africa. During the pandemic, she returned to her old vocation as a pharmacist to work on the frontline, and yet continued to contribute culturally, most recently co-presenting the primetime RTE show The Heart of Saturday Night with Úna Healy, and starring in Sally Rooney’s TV adaptation of ‘Conversations with Friends’.
Last year Loah released ‘When I Rise Up’, an EP of poetry from the 1920s set to music, created in direct response to our unique global situation, and she now launches a campaign for a limited edition vinyl via Diggers Factory.
Social media message from Loah about the vinyl release: https://fb.watch/dGSCrJaZfi/
Loah says “Our industry is about to change all over again. I feel the wild radical shifts of next stage digital a-coming. I’m here for it, but vinyl is always so special. The feeling and sound of that scratchy needle going on the black wax. Right before the soul waves quietly invade your heart.
I’m printing it with the lovelies at Diggers Factory who make this so easy! When the minimum preorder amount is reached, they will make the vinyl and post it to everyone who has ordered. As it’s a limited edition, get in there and order! I love you, music loving family.”
Taking an international approach to this project, Loah chose works by several poets who originate in Ireland, the United States, and Sierra Leone. The 7 track collection features works by poets Langston Hughes [USA], Georgia Douglas Johnson [USA], Gladys Casely-Hayford [Sierra Leone], Eva Gore Booth [Ireland], W.B. Yeats [Ireland], and Katharine Tynan [Ireland], on compositions centred on voice, acoustic guitar and piano, reflecting the continuity of folk storytelling throughout the ages.
The 1920s were, much as we are experiencing now, a time of great challenge and change internationally. In Ireland the Rising had shaken the foundations of our nation, leading to the War of Independence. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was beginning to see its parliamentary goals achieved globally. Stateside, the Harlem renaissance was setting the tone for a century of African American intellectual emancipation and self-expression, with its genesis in the literary arts. This decade truly presented a zenith of post-war hope and aspiration before the Great Depression of the 30s. This is represented powerfully in the writings of the time.
The differences and parallels of where we are a century later set the tone for this song cycle series. The poets chosen were very much writing from the lived experience of these great, existential travails, and much solace can be taken today from their elegant processing of and reflections upon the complexities their people were facing.
“While the poets I’ve chosen worked and published extensively throughout many decades, I chose to centre the series on works specifically published during the 1920s, with two exceptions. Taking the form of the folk song to bring the poems alive connects the past to the present in this most ancient means of storytelling, and certainly brings them alive for me personally.”
Loah shares a new video for one of the songs, ‘Your World’, directed by Bobby Zithelo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4WgG12cT10
She explains “Your World is a dreamy poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson that I adored writing music to in the middle of lockdown, back when all we could do was dream, feel, sleep, repeat. It gave me this feeling of soaring above the world and it’s been so gorgeous to actually enjoy real life soaring since! Travelling and seeing family and friends and all the stuff that makes our world worth being in.
We wanted to capture that feeling of finding freedom inside yourself and sailing away on the wings of the imagination! I feel like Bobby captured this so well and all the performers are visions of beauty and grace and feminine freedom! It was an unbelievable amount of good craic getting transformed into these fantastical versions of myself (the creative team were just so fab) and living and moving from the dreamworld. Take me back!”
Vinyl pre-order: https://www.diggersfactory.com/vinyl/255702