I think the thing that impresses me most about this artist, more than how well-crafted the songs are and how deftly executed they may be, is the fact that this is someone who remembers that musicians have a great platform from which to talk to a lot of people. Why waste that opportunity telling everyone that you are down because your girlfriend left you when you can actually instigate discussions by pointing people in the direction of topics of societal, political and cultural importance? Music as education, how great is that as a concept?
This time out the discussion is hemp and the way that it went from being an majorly important material for ropes and canvas to a demonised modern recreational drug. As the video explains as a trade good, religious ointment and medicine it has had a profound affect on history, driving technological advancements, exploration and inevitably triggering wars. And as always the video is more than just pretty images put together to help sell a song, it is packed full of information that is often wilfully brushed over by educators.
Musically it’s a subtle beast. Peña’s music can range from the anthemic to the intricate, the complex to the direct and An Elephant in the Room sees him in more contemplative mood. A sultry bass line and a simple beat leave the song open enough for the words to sink in. Gentle background washes build to more sweeping waves but by and large the music really is a simple and subtle delivery system for this fascinating subject. And when put together with the previous slices taken from the album Songs for the Fall of an Empire you realise that this is part of a very important record, one that promises to entertain and educate in equally measure.
Who said education couldn’t be fun?