“Often in the aftermath of a violent storm, we see our everyday environments and our place in them radically change in an instant,” notes ÌFÉ bandleader Otura Mun. On “The Tearer,” the Puerto Rico-based group’s new bembé and hip-hop-infused single out today, the babalawo – a high priest of Yoruba – invokes the orisha Oyá in reflecting on the aftermath of “uncontrollable change.”
Having grown up immersed in Stan Lee’s Marvel Universe, Mun saw the orisha’s similarities to Storm, which he remembers as the first black superhero he encountered. The video was coincidentally completed a day before Lee passed. In it, Storm and Oyá – the guardian of life and death, empowered to control wind and storms – are one and the same.
While the visual extension of “The Tearer” exists in Lee’s world of superhero saviors, Mun recalls the inspiration he felt back in the 80s, when Storm was actually stripped of her powers yet became the X-Men’s official leader. There’s a straightforward reminder in the detail: At that time, as Mun notes, Storm “didn’t have any more super powers than I did.”
Lyrically, Mun invokes disparate movements: Black Lives Matter and the white supremacist group Proud Boys, as well as the mass shootings at Parkland and Sandy Hook schools. For him, the references to these movements are “based around the idea of our sociopolitical identities” being eradicated by destruction.
In a statement accompanying the release, Otura Mun explains, “Couches end up in the street, cars end up in the bedroom, a street becomes a river, in other words when the deck gets shuffled, we may find ourselves suddenly face to face with something we’ve been actively avoiding. So in this sense I suppose I’m thinking about what happens when the differences get buried, or how will they ultimately be buried.”
Watch the video directed by Otura Mun below. ÌFÉ plays New York on January 11 with Seun Kuti at Bowery Ballroom.