Few percussionists harness the life-giving force of their instrument as Weedie Braimah. In his hands, the thunderous clap of the djembe is a rallying cry, forging new musical pathways that unite the traditions of the African diaspora in their shared history and possibility. His debut as a bandleader, The Hands of Time, is fusion music in the truest sense, breathing new life into the Pan-African experience by not just transcending genre, but time and place as well.
Launching with the joyous invocation “Full Circle,” Munir Zakee sets the stage for the journey ahead atop a funky burble of keys and guitar that’s groove is fully realized on cuts like the Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball and Pedrito Martinez featuring “Send for Me” or Trombone Shorty showcase “Back to Forward (An Ode to Bontuku).” When the swaying arrangement of the latter falls away at the 5:26 mark and Braimah’s drumming accelerates, the resulting tempo change is nothing short of exhilarating. The lushly cinematic “Sackodougo” and future jazz of Terrance Martin feature “Hippos in Space” both deploy enrapturing percussive events to similar effect, crescendoing to singular glory before falling away in solace.
These stellar performances by collaborators contribute mightily to the ecstasy of the proceedings throughout, chief among them trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, on whose Stretch Music label The Hands of Time is released. On tracks like “Ships Come In (A Lullaby),” Scott’s golden piercing leads seem destined to soar as a melodic counterpoint to Braimah’s percussion, evoking the pair’s prior collaboration on the trumpeter’s 2019 release Ancestral Recall. Illuminating Braimah’s perspective above all are two seemingly diametrically opposed cuts: the sardonically instructive “Bongo Genie,” which pokes fun at the casual and often thoughtless appropriation of African percussion, and moving closing tribute “Sworn to the Drum.” Both make clear that the trails Braimah blazes on this captivating debut are deeply personal, giving new meaning to the idea of rootedness through music. It is not a state of being, but rather a holistic perspective to be sought. The Hands of Time show the way.