A few years ago, after one too many mass shootings, I stopped liking music that incorporated the sound of guns. Far too many artists were using violence as percussion, seemingly ignoring the mourners while desensitizing the ears. But now, thanks to Nazar, I’m rethinking my stance. The Angolan artist returned to his ravaged country after the end of the civil war, only to encounter a shellshocked populace for whom bombing had become as natural as rain. His art incorporates the sounds of war, from airstrikes and alarms to rhetoric and resolve. Taken out of contrast, this is rough, violent club music. But below the surface, the music is an explosion of repressed anger, potentially cathartic for those who were – or are – unable to express it without fear of reprisal, including torture and death. To listen is to remember not only those who died, but those who still live in dangerous political and military climates. Chanting against a dictator, even after that dictator has fallen, feels like a risk, even when the artist lives in Manchester. But then again, Manchester had its own bombing last year.
Enclave is filled with hard beats and hard truths. Massacres ripped families to threads. Enmities run deep like rivers gouged from rocks. These wounds never completely heal. Nazar is acutely aware of these unpleasant truths, but chooses to turn them into art. He’s saying dance, yes, but also be proud and don’t be afraid. Turning traditional Kuduro music on its head, he offers a respectful update. We don’t smile when cities burn. We scream. But by embracing his Angolan ancestry, he’s also claiming a birthright and using it to be a spokesman of hope. Listening to “Airstrike,” one might hear menace in the clips and gauges; or one might marvel at the fact that Nazar has tamed these sounds, turning them to his cadence, not theirs. Nevertheless, the track remains terrifying, a slow, inexorable march to armageddon, reflecting the daily fears of Nazar’s mother, aunt and sisters during the conflict.
There’s also peace here, surfacing at the tail end of the title track in birdsong, rain and chant: the world that exists beneath the world we ruin. And in the closing “Ceasefire,” Nazar’s father reads a segment of his wartime journal, remarking upon the sights of avian migration. As portrayed in the cover art and teaser videos, beauty is often obscured by distortion and drowned by noise; and yet it continues to exist, quiet and true. (Richard Allen)