Skinny Pelembe turns psychedelia, jazz, electronic & more into a sound of his own
Last week, Blue Note Records released Blue Note Re:Imagined, a compilation from artists in and adjacent to the current UK jazz scene doing reinventions of classic material within the vast Blue Note catalog. It's got contributions from artists like Jorja Smith, Shabaka Hutchings, Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia, and Poppy Ajudha, and a relative newcomer that deserves more attention: Skinny Pelembe.
Real name Doya Beardmore, the impossible-to-pigeonhole artist was born in Johannesburg, South Africa before relocating to Doncaster, England where he was discovered by Gilles Peterson's Future Bubblers program and then signed to Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label. He debuted with his self-released 2017 EP Seven Year Curse, before making his Brownswood debut with his 2018 EP Sleep More, Make More Friends, which featured a different guest musician on each track (including electronic musician Emma-Jean Thackray and soul singer Yazmin Lacey, both of whom are also on Blue Note Re:Imagined). 2019 saw the release of Skinny's first full-length album, Dreaming Is Dead Now). All three of his releases are great, and all find him in a state of constant genre-blurring evolution.
His music pulls from all over the place -- psychedelia, electronic music, jazz, rock, hip hop, and more -- and Skinny blends it all in a way that sounds genuinely new and original. It's a palate-stimulating fusion that hits you with so many different flavors at once, mixing sounds you might not expect to hear together but in a way where all the ingredients bring out the best in each other. It's very trippy, and though it's music that often leaves its impact with mind-bending sonics, there's lyrical power too, like on the impactful "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish," a song which -- to quote The Guardian -- references "the racism of 1950s British boarding houses, as well as Beardmore’s own experiences of xenophobia."
If you haven't checked out Skinny Pelembe yet, I highly recommend it. I'm floored by how simultaneously unique and accessible it is, not just for an up-and-coming artist but in general. Check it out below.