Rising UK neo-soul star Poppy Ajudha has released “Watermelon Man (Under The Sun),” her new version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which the legendary pianist first recorded for Blue Note Records on his debut album Takin’ Off in 1962, and later re-imagined on his 1973 jazz-funk classic Head Hunters. You can check it out below.
The song is the fourth single to be revealed from Blue Note Re:imagined, a forthcoming collection of classic Blue Note tracks reworked by a selection of the UK scene’s most exciting young talents. Previous singles include Skinny Pelembe’s take on Andrew Hill’s “Illusion,” Ezra Collective’s cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” and Jorja Smith’s rework of St Germain’s “Rose Rouge.”
Poppy Ajudha says, “Herbie’s “Watermelon Man” was my first thought when asked to imagine a track from the Blue Note catalogue. It’s an iconic song and one that has been with me throughout my life.
“I based the lyrics on my research of Watermelon Men in America, aiming to capture what it may have been like to be a black man in America at that time – newly emancipated but still heavily oppressed – and the race relations that had brought him to this point.
“I wanted to broaden the concept of the Watermelon Man to the way that black people in the US and UK throughout history have been denied an understanding of where they came from and the truth of a violent history within the western world. It feels ever more relevant today with the BLM movement coming to the forefront of our lives and was an important direction for me to take the song in.”
Poppy Ajudha has collaborated with the likes of Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes, Nubya Garcia, Mahalia, and Gilles Peterson, won awards including Soul Act Of The Year at the 2019 Jazz FM Awards, and won an array of well-known fans including Jorja Smith, Anderson .Paak, Kamasi Washington, Lianne La Havas, and Barack Obama.
Representing a bridge between Blue Note’s past and future, Blue Note Re:imagined will feature contributions from a roll call of internationally acclaimed jazz, soul and R&B artists – Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Mr Jukes, Steam Down, Skinny Pelembe, Emma-Jean Thackray, Poppy Ajudha, Jordan Rakei, Fieh, Ishmael Ensemble, Blue Lab Beats, Melt Yourself Down, Yazmin Lacey, Alfa Mist, Ezra Collective, and Jorja Smith.
In addition to Wayne Shorter and St Germain, the collection will include interpretations of tracks by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Eddie Henderson, McCoy Tyner, and Andrew Hill.
Blue Note Re:imagined is out on September 25 and can be pre-ordered here.