Loah is Sallay Matu Garnett, an artist of Irish / Sierra Leonean origin who grew up between Maynooth and West Africa. During the pandemic, she returned to her old vocation as a pharmacist to work on the frontline, and still continued to contribute culturally, most recently co-presenting the primetime RTE show The Heart of Saturday Night with Úna Healy.
This Sunday 26th September, Loah will share “When I Rise Up”, an EP of poetry from the 1920s set to music, created in direct response to our unique global situation.
Taking an international approach to this project, Loah chose works by several poets who originate in Ireland, the United States, and Sierra Leone. The 7 track collection features works by poets Langston Hughes [USA], Georgia Douglas Johnson [USA], Gladys Casely-Hayford [Sierra Leone], Eva Gore Booth [Ireland], W.B. Yeats [Ireland], and Katharine Tynan [Ireland], on compositions centred on voice, acoustic guitar and piano, reflecting the continuity of folk storytelling throughout the ages.
The 1920s were, much as we are experiencing now, a time of great challenge and change internationally. In Ireland the Rising had shaken the foundations of our nation, leading to the War of Independence. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was beginning to see its parliamentary goals achieved globally. Stateside, the Harlem renaissance was setting the tone for a century of African-American intellectual emancipation and self-expression, with its genesis in the literary arts. This decade truly presented a zenith of post-war hope and aspiration, before the Great Depression of the 30s. This is represented powerfully in the writings of the time.
The differences and parallels of where we are a century later set the tone for this song cycle series. The poets chosen were very much writing from the lived experience of these great, existential travails, and much solace can be taken today from their elegant processing of and reflections upon the complexities their people were facing.
“While the poets I’ve chosen worked and published extensively throughout many decades, I chose to centre the series on works specifically published during the 1920s, with two exceptions. Taking the form of the folk song to bring the poems alive connects the past to the present in this most ancient means of storytelling, and certainly brings them alive for me personally.”
‘When I Rise Up’ EP will be available on all digital platforms Sunday 26th September 2021. Pre-save the EP at https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/loah1/when-i-rise-up-ep