Don’t let the title fool you. There’s not a Jools Holland impersonator in sight on ‘Immigrant Boogie’ and it certainly doesn’t step into that kind of jaunty territory. In actual fact, Ghostpoet’s comeback single, his first since 2015’s Mercury Prize-nominated album ‘Shedding Skin,’ deals with a particularly weighty, pressing and contemporary issue.
Underpinned by propulsive, pitch-black post-punk guitars and filled with the sense of impending doom, the track sees Obaro Ejimiwe telling a first person account of a difficult journey across borders. As the darkened melodies imply, although there’s a hint of hope in the first half of the track, the tone gradually twists around. Even the fact that the line “I was dreaming of a better life” is in the past tense hints at peril in the ocean depths. Sure enough, just as distorted synths wash over the track like waves, we’re informed that suddenly the protagonist has been swept overboard but can’t swim, fearful for his life and what will become of his “two kids and lovely wife.”
It might seem like a simple tale based on real-life events on the surface, but Ejimiwe achieves a heck of lot with comeback. The peril of the journey asks those afraid of the so-called “refugee crisis” to question their own beliefs, but the way in which the tale turns on a whim speaks to all of us. While we think we might be the master of our own course in life, things occasionally spiral out of our control. Sometimes, that can mean the difference between life and death, and Ejimiwe tackles that truth with tact, depth and empathy.
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The festival takes place in Hamburg in September.