Cosmo Pyke and Frank Ulwenya capture the sound of travel with soul and surf rock

The World
South London musician Cosmo Pyke

As far as vacation souvenirs go, we bring back trinkets and T-shirts, but we rarely bring back sound. What sounds remind us of our travels?

At times what we hear when we travel can be as much a passive ambient noise as it can invade an entire memory. The sounds of travel are heavily accompanied by their contexts. Seasickness highlights each gulp of a drifting boat and anxiety picks at the hums and hisses of plane engines. In this A-side B-side, the sounds of travel come through on two tracks.

Both “Safarini,” by Frank Ulwenya, and “Great Dane,” by Cosmo Pyke, are dripping with the jangle of surf rock elements and funky percussions. They capture two different ideas and time frames of traveling.

The album "Safarini in Transit" is a collection of recordings from 1995-1998 that features musicians from Ghana, Kenya, Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. Safarini, like safari, means “in transit” or “on a journey.”

On the title track, "Safarini" by Frank Ulwenya and Afrisound, the percussion trudges alongside a heart-racing but bright melody. Frank Ulwenya fills the track with an approach that radiates new thrills and the confidence of having traveled before. “Safarini” is about an entire journey through life. It captures their time in Kenya, Seattle and the moments in between.

“Safarini” eases a feeling of anxiety with a tangy brightness. It punctuates carefree attitudes with a consistency of rhythm that makes it impossible to stop dancing.

On the other hand, Cosmo Pyke’s take is reflective and calm. The South London musician marries surf rock to jazz on many of his tracks. He makes “Great Dane” the sultry cousin to “Safarini.”

On “Great Dane,” the guitar drifts underneath a toasty bass. The song has a varied percussion section, including a funky snare that drags itself between the scratch effect of maracas or a brush.

The song isn’t actually about travel. It’s more about a Danish girl and Cosmo Pyke reflecting on their relationship. However, the sound bed for a song about reflection and intimacy takes on ideas of travel with its nods to genre and a lovely pace. It’s the moment right after your flight lands, or an end-of-the-day-at-the-beach feel. A time when your skin is brushed with reminders of sun. The taste of lime still lingers between your cheeks and sand still clings to your body.

While "Safarini" keeps up this bright back-and-forth of travel, "Great Dane" collapses that brightness and exchanges it for a warmer, more soulful approach.

Are you traveling? Check out this playlist as you go on your next journey!

A-side B-side is a reoccurring segment on The World as part of a partnership with Smithsonian Folkways. The series compares the sounds and ideas of two songs, albums or artists. On the A-side: a folk or traditional selection; on the B-side: a contemporary selection.

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