Our Native Daughters, the new roots music supergroup featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Allison Russell, and Leyla McCalla, have released the song “Quasheba, Quasheba” from their upcoming debut album.
“Quasheba, Quasheba,” premiering below, was written by Birds of Chicago singer-songwriter Allison Russell as an attempt to reckon with and shed light on the singer’s ancestral roots in West African slavery. After the singer found out her family line can be traced back to an enslaved person named Quasheba, Russell felt compelled to pay tribute in song.
“Such was her strength and resilience that she somehow survived the transatlantic crossing in the hold of a slave ship, and was eventually sold to a large sugar cane plantation in Grenada,” Russell writes in the album’s liner notes. “I wept to learn her name.”
Guided by Russell and Giddens’ twin banjo playing, “Quasheba, Quasheba” is a simmering folk-noir that slowly builds, with Dirk Powell and Leyla McCalla adding cello and electric guitar accompaniment as Russell’s tale of strength and survival progresses.
“Raped and beaten/Every baby taken/Starved and sold and sold again,” Russell sings with quivering grace, “But ain’t you a woman/Of love deservin’/Ain’t it somethin’ you survived.”
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Songs of Our Native Daughters will be released via Smithsonian Folkways on February 22nd.