Oakland-based psych outfit Orchestra Gold is rooted in the decade plus-long collaboration between Malian-born vocalist Mariam Diakite and Oakland-based guitarist Erich Huffaker. The duo first met in Bamako, Mali back in 2006. At the time, Huffaker was very busy: he was working for a nonprofit, studying djembe and dunun (drums) and immersing himself in the city’s burgeoning music scene when he had met and befriended Diakite. The duo recognized a deep and profound musical connection, which led to Diakite relocating to the States to start a band — Orchestra Gold.
Since then, the Oakland-based psych outfit specializes in a kaleidoscopic sound that meshes Malian folk with psych rock and elements of Afrobeat and soul: Diakite delivers heartfelt and thought-provoking lyrics in her native Bambara language over a trippy and funky soundscape featuring swinging rhythms, funky brass and scorching guitar riffs. The outfit’s goal is to transcend national and musical borders while being a healing force.
Orchestra Gold’s third album Medicine is slated for a January 20, 2023 release. The album reportedly sees the band firmly continuing their pursuit of spreading and healing and community through music.
Last month, I wrote about album single “Koniya (No Benefit to Envy),” a song which featured shuffling rhythms, scorching feedback and distortion-driven riffage serving as a lysergic and sinuous bed for Diakite’s expressive delivery. The end result was a song that arched upward towards the cosmos while rooted in earthly matters.
Medicine’s latest single, “Gende” begins with a lengthy and dreamy introduction featuring looping and swirling guitar textures. Around the 2:25 mark or so, the song rapidly morphs into a breakneck Fela Kuti-meets-Black Sabbath-meets-Tinariwen-like ripper, reminiscent of JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man, centered around a funky horn line, scorching riffage and looping guitar textures. Diakite’s expressive vocal and shuffling, propulsive polyrhythm glide and dance around the song’s disparate parts. The end result is a song that’s lysergic but defiantly — and boldly — African and danceable.
Diakite explained the inspiration and meaning of the song to the folks at Glide Magazine:
“’Gende’ talks about the importance of family. This song uses poetic imagery to draw analogies about how important our familiar relationships are. We need to treasure them and not exhaust them.
For example, the first image compares the father to wheat. Absent-minded interaction deteriorates the relationship just as overworking wheat turns the grain to dust. This is not to be taken literally but to encourage people to be mindful of their relationship with their parents.
The second image compares siblings to soap. When you scrub soap too hard, taking more than you need, the bar disappears unnecessarily. If you take more than you give to your siblings, you could be left without an intimate, treasured relationship.
The third image compares children to mirrors. This analogy may be different from how we think about ‘mirrors’ in the west. It implies that If you judge or critique your children too harshly, you will end up damaging your relationship. This will distance them from you, and you will end up missing the intimacy that you could have had.”
The accompanying video fittingly features some lysergic imagery that’s eventually superimposed over the band performing the song. Much like its accompanying song, the video is meant to inspire the viewer to get up from their screen and dance.