Vocalist-poet Camae Ayewa talks inspirations and new album ahead of Philly show

Irreversible Entanglements will take the stage at Solar Myth on Sept. 10.
Piper Ferguson

The rigors of Philadelphia vocalist, poet and activist Moor Mother knows no boundaries.

Across eight industrial electronic albums since 2016, Moor Mother has consistently painted vividly incendiary portraits of inner-city struggle, lyrically touching on issues of social justice, housing and equity. Yet, there is a softer, looser side to the free jazz singer-poet that comes out when she uses her birth name, Camae Ayewa, and works as part of Irreversible Entanglements.

Together, Ayewa, bassist Luke Stewart, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, and drummer Tcheser Holmes recorded ‘Protect Your Light’ at Rudy Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey, will release the album on Sept. 8, and debut its frenetic, fanciful output at Philly’s Solar Myth on Sept. 10.

“The primary difference between what I do as Moor Mother and what I do as part of Irreversible Entanglements is that we’re working as a collective, where everyone has the same voice. With Moor Mother, I am a one-man-band, and what I say goes. With Irreversible Entanglements, we share as a band,” Ayewa explains. “Moor Mother is more in-your-face, a bit more explicitly political.

“With Irreversible Entanglements, this embraces what we’re all thinking about. I’m not pushing any of my own agenda on the band. It comes, then, from a place of love and peace. It comes from a dedication to one’s instrument and a dedication to the foundations and traditions that I respect, and that we respect.”

While songs such as ‘Our Land Back’ connect to what Ayewa writes as Moor Mother and topics such as housing inequity, moments such as ‘Free Love’ speak to a deeper tenderness and a more worldly brand of intimacy.

“Our lived experience and coming to those emotions in different ways,” she said.

A large part of those traditions that Ayewa spoke of are the stories of jazz men and women who laid the groundwork for Irreversible Entanglements, and made the necessary sacrifices toward pioneering the jazz idiom and its support systems — many who have history in the studio where she recorded ‘Protect Your Light’ earlier this year.

“I would say that yes, we did feel Coltrane’s spirit in that studio,” said Ayewa in awe of Rudy Van Gelder Studios. “Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ was heavy on my mind when we recorded ‘Protect Your Light’. But it also came down to other titans who had recorded there, such as Ray Charles, and being in awe of that.”

‘Protect Your Light’ has great holistic meaning, Ayewa says, and pulls from a wealth of the band improvisations and influences, encompassing a multitude of spirits, rituals and shared histories within the band.

“I am a human of emotions and excited by it,” she said of the new album’s title. “This record could be about being forceful and stepping into who you are, and who we are, and no longer being a part of the horrors of history. It is about saying that we are here and that we shine as bright as any star. And to do it all in a way that is not wrapped up in things such as capitalism. That’s what a song such as ‘Free Love’ is all about – you own your own love. You are the owner of your own light… to be as bold and as bright as possible.”

Irreversible Entanglements celebrates the release of its new album with an opening set by the Philadelphia duo of poet Ursula Rucker and guitarist Tim Motzer on Sept. 10 at Solar Myth. Tickets are available at arsnovaworkshop.org