In 1986, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush released the jaw-dropping collaboration “Don’t Give Up.” The song was a gorgeous slice of earthy vibe that balanced wistful longing and an essential, shimmering undercurrent of hope.
With Gabriel and Bush not slated for another collaboration anytime soon, Central Florida musician Aisha Badru is a more than worthy successor to that particular sound and feel in the modern pop scene.
A comparison like this is not taken lightly. Badru’s talent is fearsome, his ethereal song rooted in deep emotions that circumvent the dreaded “twee” descriptor nicely. These are songs to be repeated for long nights lost in thought. Badru’s music triggers an emotional response that strikes right into the imagination of the heart,
These qualities are showcased in abundance on Badru’s recently released mini-album. The way back home. And don’t just take our word for it; the six-song EP, his third, was released by credentialed independent label Nettwerk Records, home to alternative stars like Sarah McLachlan, Perfume Genius and Skinny Puppy over the decades. (If you’re laughing at us for throwing them away, we can’t hear you because we’re too busy jamming Badru’s “Worthwhile” and Skinny Puppy’s spectral “Worlock” in a double-sided same-room situation. )
Badru decamped to central Florida at the start of the pandemic in 2020 after a stint in New York, currently living a quiet, contemplative life in Mount Dora – where some of the songs on this album were written – with his partner and his friends. twins.
Badru humbly describes the songs on the EP as “simple with very related themes, whether it’s the feeling we get from a breakup, feelings of self worth or spiritual fulfillment…a lot of things that I’ve lived as I walk through my life journey and find that wisdom as I find that healing, I infuse it into my music.”
The way back home is filled with these captivating stories delivered by sound. Influenced by modern folk artists like Damian Rice and his labelmate Passenger, Badru’s songs physically and mentally arrest you, delighting the listener with strummed rhythm guitar, delicate, deliberate electronics and his celestial vocals.
“I want the music to be uplifting. I do it in a way that the lyrics are the focal point,” says Badru. “I want my words to touch people and find a place within them that needs healing and I hope my journey can help shed some light on what they are going through.”
British producer Chris Hutchison fleshes out Badru’s vocals and guitar playing with subtle strings, electronic washes, piano and vast vistas of open sonic space. Cool synths roll over Badru’s verses like an idyllic flow, giving the record a brilliant continuity.
“I normally write on the guitar and [Hutchinson’s] been with me since my Pendulum album and he’s produced everything since,” Badru says. “He really helped my sound production. I am first a writer before being a musician. I’m very poetic, and he really adds to the atmosphere of my songs.”
The way back homeThe closing track of “Rebirth” (described as “extraordinary” by NPR, and they are not wrong), testifies to this brilliantly. Drum lines swell the triumphant chorus, “This is the great rebirth,” with beautiful spoken word passages that amplify the song’s emotional core.
When asked about his outstanding personal songs on Way back, Badru asks for a moment to think about it. After a few moments of silence, she lists “The Way Back Home”, “Rooted” and “Graves”.
“‘Rooted’ speaks to my inner landscape, now. Being in the space where all the things that happened to me are still going to happen to me. The world is going to suffer again,” says Badru. “How do you answer? How do you stay grounded? Even if the world is falling apart, how can you root yourself and not just fall where the wind takes you?
“These three songs are really about my perspective, and they all symbolize moving forward and not backward, but going back to move forward. When I think of the whole EP, there’s a theme of going forward. ‘rooting.”
Despite all the melancholy, there is an essential element of hope in Aisha Badru’s music and a vulnerability that quietly shines through – spiritually and sonically. And that’s something we need now more than ever.
The way back home is available on all major streaming platforms, Badru’s Bandcamp or via Nettwerk Records.