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Jean Koning hasn’t shied away from anything in his decades-spanning career, and his eighth solo album—Poor Jericho, due for October—is no different. Emotional, lyrical, and fiery, the album’s lush, melodic soundscapes reel from major issue to major issue, turning the personal into the global and the political. But don’t take the album’s produced, often danceable sound as an indication that this “Jean” is any less powerful than the Jean of previous eras. Where he once broke your heart into pieces with the pounding of his guitar, Koning is now calling on his listeners to take a stand with every urgent piano line and every ethereal-ish piece of percussion. A stand against hate, against conspiracy theories, against the never-ending machinations of the political and economic machines.

It’s a lot to absorb in one listen, and this album deserves many. It’s an album that you’ve been waiting for. Poor Jericho feels like it must be listened through. And then listened through again until you really hear it.

Much of the album’s power comes from how intimate it feels. Koning’s original intent for a “Mineo”-follow-up, was to connect with stories and song lines he would find during an extensive trip to Africa, but then nature decided it had other plans. The 2020 trip to Africa—as well as his tour to promote his previous effort “Mineo”—was cancelled during the Covid-lockdown. Wandering through the fields near his home, enjoying ‘Nature’s Revenge’ (as he likes to call it) during that first lockdown; suddenly the songs started to appear. Sublime African-sounding Waltzes combined with almost hateful accounts of egocentrism, hateful remarks, fake-news, and conspiracy theories he found on Internet forums and Twitter. The anger that sweeps through the album is Koning’s, but as he unleashes the full spectrum of his cooled down emotions across the sonic divide—grief, hope, frustration, healing—it feels like yours, too.

“It wasn’t going to be a record of pain, ugliness and division when I began,” Koning said in his social media release leading up to the album’s drop date. “It wasn’t going to be a record of conspiracy. But the Lockdown insisted that I listened and watched the conflicts that were traumatizing the world and write about those raw emotions. Hopefully people will find strength and resilience within the songs to give them the energy to survive the storms that we are currently in.”

Jean has written a piece about Poor Jericho, the Biblical Jericho-paradox, and how to stay strong when it feels like the entire world is collapsing.

The Battle of Jericho is an incident from the Book of Joshua, being the first battle fought by the Israelites
in the course of the conquest of Canaan. According to Joshua 6:1–27, the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city walls once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day then blew their trumpets. Excavations at Tell es-Sultan, the biblical Jericho, have failed to substantiate this story, which has its origins in the nationalist propaganda of much later kings of Judah and their claims to the territory of the Kingdom of Israel. The lack of archaeological evidence and the composition history and theological purposes of the Book of Joshua have led archaeologists like William G. Dever to characterise the story of the fall of Jericho as "invented out of whole cloth".

The Book of Joshua is the story of how Israel conquered Canaan. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, sent two spies to Jericho, the first city of Canaan that they decided to conquer, and discovered that the land was in fear of them and their God. The Israelites marched around the walls once every day for six days with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day they marched seven times around the walls, then the priests blew their ram's horns, the Israelites raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell. Following God's law they killed every man and woman of every age, as well as the oxen, sheep, and donkeys. Only Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who had sheltered the spies, her parents, brothers and all "those who belonged to her" were spared. Joshua then cursed anybody who rebuilt the foundations and gates, with the deaths of their firstborn and youngest child respectively. This was eventually fulfilled by Hiel the Bethelite under King Ahab's reign.

With that being said, actually, I have to say, I really enjoyed the first lockdown. For the first time ever, you couldn’t do anything, so you didn’t have to feel guilty, and the weather was amazing and there were no aeroplanes and all the 24/7 car-people weren't rushing down the highway. Nature was in full bloom and the birds were singing. When humans disappear, nature reclaims itself. That’s what would happen if we disappeared tomorrow. And I was told that I respect this “Nature’s Revenge” to just be open, and to listen, and to just expose myself to the river, and the animals, and the rocks, and the trees, and the meadows. And just be as open as I possibly could. So that's what I did. I took the dog to the fields on a daily base. And exposed myself to the new silence, which I adored. And I felt the music in the sun. I heard it in the grass underneath my feet. In that sole bark to show me there was some Parakeet in our proximity. And it wasn’t until weeks later, the songs then started to really come. I haven’t even had rhythm or melody or chord structure in my mind. I’ll be walking through the meadows with my dog, chasing some pheasant or any other bird I haven’t been at close proximity to in a very long time, and wham, and I’d think ‘Okay. Thank you. I’m going to plug into that.’

Through music, people need to activate. They need to activate themselves, their awareness, and their clarity. Drop the conspiracies you so long to believe. Just try to get out of this political, emotional Taser they’re getting attacked by every day and which they, in response, attack back. That is futile. That’s how people are becoming consumed.
People are becoming consumed and losing themselves in this, and that’s why you need to discipline. We all need to discipline ourselves and only have so much time committed to the news cycle a day. And then go do something productive. Whether that’s in your garden, whether that’s in a kitchen, whether that’s in whatever your work is. And try to be passionate about it. But then, where are your passions now? Where have all those passions gone to? Go! Activate it, reactivate it. Go invade your creative essence. Reinvade it. That’s what Poor Jericho is about.

So, I took a trip down the Internet—instead of the meadows, where I found these waltz themes—and I started to read what ordinary people were thinking about this pandemic. And then the conspiracies popped up. And the name calling started. And the ultimate division between left- and right-wing politics. So, I put all these stories and messages that made me sick to the core actually, and I put them through different lenses, held them, carried them around, saw different ways that ultimately made some sense. And wrote them down. So, I had the 'Nature Revenge' in the shape of the music, and the lyrics that came from very angry people on the Internet. Which made me angry too. But in combination with the waltzes, which came from Nature, it became something I could work with.


To me, the most tragic on Poor Jericho is Dear Kitty. That’s tragic, there is no upside to that. Already in the first leg of the lockdown people started to compare their lives to that of Anne Frank's. What a thought. And what were you thinking, when you wrote this post? I had a hard time walking through ‘my’ meadows during the time Anne Frank came to be a splat on my pallet. But then there were the birds. And the slow wind. And the smells from the wild flowers. Nature. And nature took me to the rhythm to deal with the naiveté of that message: ‘I feel just like Anne Frank right now.’
But Anne knew at some point, the ending was in sight. Her ending. Not because of some killer-virus, which doesn’t discriminate in its nature. Her end would come in the form of discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism. And gas. 
And nature was there to guide me through that passage. Because nature also has a way—whether it’s with fires, like a forest fire, and yes, it’s destructive but then eventually there is a fertilization and a regrowth. There’s a transmutation. And it might take time. It might take time for that transformation to happen. And that transformation comes in a variety of shapes. A variety of forms. It’s about a tone, it’s about an energy, it’s about creating a place for conversation for the community. Everybody that’s in the community or wants to be part of the community that hasn’t come before; they’re welcome. It’s a place to gather. And exchanging ideas and thoughts. And energy.

Poor Jericho is not your average made-in-lockdown kind of music. I never planned to create songs that say ‘I miss you’, ‘wish you were here’, or ‘we’ll get through this somehow’. Or worse: ‘I miss partying right now. Of all the things I could miss on this planet, it’s partying!’.
I guess it’s my account of events. Channelling the hateful ideas of a group of people, who are out there to divide. Who are out there to pull the pink focus on their selves and have nothing useful to say. Who desire the spotlight over the idea of a better functioning world for all.
I couldn’t find the time to write songs like ‘I miss you’. If you have to think about that you’ve got too much time on your hands and you need to chop wood, and fucking carry water.