Track By Track Guide: Jelly Cleaver – Forever Presence

Our ‘Track By Track’ guide aims to shed light on the stories behind some of our favourite artists’ music. The latest instalment of this series features the bringer of good vibes and cosmic truths, Jelly Cleaver taking us through the tracks on her recently released EP, Forever Presence.

Her new EP pays tribute to artists such as Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane and Dhafer Youssef, and takes inspiration from Jelly’s contemporaries like Moor Mother and Angel Bat Dawid.

Forever Presence weaves together spiritual jazz, blues, soul, and psychedelic rock, accompanied by rising stars in the UK jazz scene, to tell a story of loss, love, and the universe across five tracks. Just click play and let Cleaver take you to a wonderful place.

From her DIY roots to her activism in the fight against racism and climate change to her workshops and gigs in support of migrant’s, Cleaver is an artist that you should explore more closely.

Below you can find Cleaver’s track by track guide along with a Bandcamp player of the EP.

The title track, Forever Presence, was inspired by the loss of a loved one. It’s a reflection on the idea that change is inevitable and inescapable, it is a fact of existence, but states of being like love are not fixed. Love cannot exist in the moment; it is in between the moments that it lives. In fact, no state of being can exist in the moment, pinned down in time and space, but rather all things flow, always relational to the past and the future. In this way, love acts like a presence that is forever with us as it’s without time and space. Furthermore, when we lose a loved one, we realise that simple boundaries like life and death do not really reflect our reality. People can live long after their death in the memories of those whose lives they touched and changed forever.

Prayer for Rojava was written following the 2019 invasion of Rojava, also known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. They had a revolutionary organisational model of federal democracy founded on feminist and socialist ideals. With their aim of direct democracy, everyone had a say in how society was run, and there was no hierarchy. They were also working towards complete gender equality, environmental sustainability and religious and ethnic tolerance. This region was invaded by Turkey last year after Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from the region. This song is dedicated to Rojava, the Zapatistas and to all people who fight for true democracy and equality, often facing violent repression.

We Have Known Love came out of a jam, done in one take, with the poem written and recorded later. The idea was to have a jam with a phaser on the master bus, so all the musicians would be playing while hearing the phaser. Originally they thought they’d once heard a Sun Ra album that was all going through a phaser but having looked extensively through Sun Ra’s back catalogue, they decided they must have dreamed it, but it would still be a great idea for a jam.

Black Line is about the fossil fuel industry. Despite predictions that climate change will have caused human civilisation as we know it to break down by the end of the century, fossil fuel companies continue to lobby for more extraction, more oil subsidies and more inaction by governments. Climate change will disproportionately affect the world’s poor, indigenous people and people of colour, and these are the people the fossil fuel industry has most exploited as well. This song was especially inspired by the story of the Ogoni Nine and Shell oil corporation. Having poisoned the Niger Delta region with negligent oil spills, the Ogoni people who were indigenous there rose up and demanded Shell clean up the oil and compensate them. Shell worked with the military dictatorship government who raided villages, killing 2,000 and displacing 80,000. Shell then bribed witnesses to provide false testimonies so that the leaders of the uprising were executed, who became known as the Ogoni nine. It was also inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and the many times the fossil fuel industry has abused the world. The black line represents the line we cross, after which there is no turning back to stop catastrophic global warming. Experts predict this line is a matter of years away; some think we have already crossed it.

Forever Presence is out now via Gearbox Records – buy here.

CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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