Arig | Credit: Arig Mohammed Mussa Ferej

Love Letter To A Record: Arig on Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Here, Arig sings the praises of Marvin Gaye’s soul classic, 1971’s What’s Going On.

Arig will release the EP, Reckless, on Friday, 9th February 2024. The record’s lead single, ‘His Nation’, was our favourite tune of the week on release back in September, and the follow-up, ‘Pop Off’, upholds this high standard. Arig’s latest nods to the pop-R&B megastars of the 00s while the Sydney/Eora artist embraces her aggressive edge. Watch the music video for ‘Pop Off’ at the bottom of this page.

Arig’s love letter to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On

Arig: Dear What’s Going On,

As I look back on my life, I can’t help but reminisce about the time when I resided in that housing commission estate in inner-city Brisbane. The passing years have perhaps dulled the intensity of the memories of violence and the lack of love I experienced and witnessed there. And that could be a blessing.

During my early years, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but I could always feel it, an underlying sense of struggle and an unsettling complacency that permeated the air between the unit blocks. As a teenager, I often sat on my balcony, gazing at the estate’s car park, pondering, “What the hell is going on here?” and yearning for a way out. Then, one fateful amazing night, you found your way into my life.

This gift came from friends, a couple of decades my senior, who loved their whiskey, who held moonlit painting sessions, played music at volumes that might’ve caused neighbours to call the police, and adorned themselves in vintage attire. They were the kind who would sing, cry, and dance on polished mahogany floors, with the lingering fragrance of nag champa incense weaving through the air.

I vividly remember that night, sitting there, soaking in the vibes as the saxophone’s melody swept over me. A hand reached out, drawing me away from my contemplation, and suddenly, “What’s going on” was being sung. Then, the entire room joined in, belting out the lyrics, “There’s too many of you crying.” I may not have known the words then, but I felt the emotion. The bongos forced my body to move while your lyrics burnt themselves into my memory. I became so obsessed.

When I returned home, I rushed to YouTube, and tucked my Rocket speakers beneath my bed to physically immerse myself in the music. With closed eyes, my hand on my heart, I mouthed the lyrics to ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),’ grieving the family life I didn’t have; accepted where I was with ‘Right On’; I contemplated my capacity for forgiveness in ‘God Is Love’; and found compassion in ‘Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)’

With each replay, the puzzle pieces of my life slowly began to fall into place. The confusion and sadness that once clouded my mind gradually lifted, and the questions that once tormented me grew quieter. Instead, I started to paint the canvas of the person I aspired to be.

Thank you for being the guiding light that led me out of a dark place. You were the catalyst for my personal growth, the soundtrack to my transformation, and the vessel through which I found love, hope, and inspiration. You will forever occupy a special place in my heart, as the song and album that altered the course of my life and helped me discover the power within to shape my own destiny.

With Love, Arig

Arig – ‘Pop Off’

Further Reading

Ed Sheeran Wins Copyright Case Over ‘Thinking Out Loud’

Listen To Flight Facilities Remix Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’

Rolling Stone Have Updated Their Best 500 Albums List, With Marvin Gaye Taking The Top Spot

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