• Mon, Dec 11, 2023

Donn Bhat Puts A Spin On A Classic

Jun 01, 05:17pm

His single ‘Strange Fruit’ brings danceability to Billie Holliday’s still-relevant tune

A teacher named Abel Meeropol wrote a poem called Strange Fruit in 1937, a scathing and sorrowful reminder of the lynching of African-Americans in that time period; it was put into song by Billie Holliday soon after. It had great ramifications for the civil rights movements that ensued, but its powerful comparison of victims to the fruits of trees echoes many sentiments to this day. Donn Bhat (who has been around for a minute) samples this for a more driving version of the tune, possibly bringing it sonically into a more modern space. It still hits hard, though.

What Donn (and Rohit Gupta on trumpet) bring is a more cinematic vibe. There’s so much atmosphere on offer here, and that lifts the sample into something you might in a classic dance track from years past. The piano offers a pulse to hold on to and that is further accentuated by the nocturnal, rather muted drums and bass that kick in shortly after. This is a groove to nod your head to and the more modern-leaning stylings (albeit at a more laid-back pace) give this version a personality all its own. Donn has always been fantastic at creating a vibe and the middle of the track does that with aplomb. The sample goes from being a lead element to supporting the chugging, almost mechanical buildup that separates the listener from the song’s final refrain. It’s a wonderful touch; almost five minutes pass by in a flash. Needless to say, the production is also truly classy. Sounds swirl around and into each other, and the Western-echoing bell that bookends the track is a lovely touch. What takes this version of an already classic song above and beyond is the danceable but serious mood it elicits. Think while you enjoy.


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