The Long Goodbye album review: Riz Ahmed echoes ache and bitterness of immigrants in a post-Brexit UK
Riz Ahmed released his first music in four years, The Long Goodbye, alongside a 12-minute short film.
“Britain’s broken up with me,” says Riz Ahmed in ‘The Breakup (Shikwa)’ — the first song off his new album The Long Goodbye — echoing the ache and bitterness felt by many immigrants and their families across the UK in this post-Brexit climate. The UK officially left the European Union on 30 January.
The new 15-song long album, accompanied by a short film of the same name, is about his bitter breakup with a woman named Brittney, a metaphor for Britain. “This album takes you on the journey of this breakup (Brexit) through the stages of denial, anger, acceptance, and finally, self-love to counter the hate,” he had said in a statement.
Ahmed, who is British-Pakistani, carved his name as an accomplished actor with roles in Venom, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler, and an HBO miniseries The Night Of. His skills as a rapper are equally admirable. He has previously released music as Riz MC (Microscope in 2012), and as one half of the duo Swet Shop Boys (Cashmere in 2016, followed by an EP Sufi La in 2017). With partner Heems and producer Redinho, the three have used hip-hop as a tool of self-expression, resistance, and solidarity.
The Long Goodbye blends South Asian references, classical music samples, and spoken word interludes by actors Mindy Kaling, Mahershala Ali, Yara Shahidi, comedian Asim Chaudhry’s moniker Chabuddy G, Hasan Minhaj, and Ahmed’s mum. Unabashedly provocative, this record is a meditation on the impact of colonisation, xenophobia, and the rise of right-wing nationalism in Britain. Shift focus to the east and the same phenomena has gripped India ever since the ultra-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Ahmed’s seething lyrics in The Long Goodbye will strike a chord with South Asians across the globe.
“She got violent, ran off in the end cause she was stressed out/ And then she went, took a knife out from the bed stand/Carved a scar down my middle just to leave me stretched out,” he angrily refers to the Partition in ‘Shikwa,' which birthed two nations — India and Pakistan. ‘Toba Tek Singh’ is a fast-paced rap, which borrows its title from a satirical story written by Saadat Hasan Manto, and encapsulates the reality of grappling between two cultural identities.
Ahmed’s bars get even more frantic and agitated in ‘Fast Lava,' reminding “I spit my truth and it’s brown.” It is an empowering seven words, where he unapologetically reclaims his brownness. ‘Mogambo,' an infectious politically charged single he dropped in 2018, also makes it to the track list. He initially sounds resigned as he begins ‘Can I Live,' which is a commentary on the systemic wrongs faced by the brown community since the beginning of time. Possibly the most radio-friendly track on Last Goodbye is the Jay Sean feature ‘Any Day,' the only collaboration here.
Coupled with the album is a 12-minute short film, directed by Aniel Karia, which addresses the very real problem of Islamophobia. The narrative does not censor the possibility of a resurgence of religious and race-driven crimes in Britian, even showing the police’s quiet complicity. This hit close to home, where in February, Northeast Delhi witnessed widespread carnage and bloodshed in the name of religion. So far, there have been 53 deaths recorded, most of them being Muslim.
Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye is a great introduction to those not acquainted with his discography. The compelling and topical record is one of the many pop culture creations that have given a voice to the voiceless, and will definitely spark a conversation.
The album is available on all streaming services but you can also listen to it here
Watch the accompanying short film here
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