Pakistani-British award-winning multi-hyphenate Riz Ahmed’s debut LP The Long Goodbye explores a painful break up, though in his case the abusive lover is his native Britain. Utilizing the traditional break-up motif to reflect on the timely issues of the diaspora in Britain – racism, oppression and the struggles faced by British Asians.

The powerful spoken word opener, ‘Break Up (Shikwa)’ introduces us to Ahmed’s ex “Britney”. Echoing the rest of the album, the opening track explores his relationship with her using strong undertones of ancestral and colonial trauma through her exploitation and conquest; “beat me red and blue ‘til I knew right was white and not brown”. 

Riz Ahmed The Long Goodbye. Credit: The Guardian
Riz Ahmed The Long Goodbye. Credit: The Guardian

Ahmed’s voice slowly grows more frantic as the album progresses. This domestic reimagination of being emotionally exiled from his home allows Ahmed to transform political issues into personal issues. The same fiery jungle beat of rattling percussion mixed with samples featuring traditional South Asian instruments and singing techniques is present throughout, particularly in ‘Toba Tek Singh in Fast Lava.’

A sense of redemption, self-love and acceptance emerges towards the end. ‘Karma’ closes the albums with a definite tropical house vibe and though it is open ended, perhaps there is a hint that his sense of self is resilient and has survived the effacing effects of racism.

Suleman Khan – Music Writer