Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: David Byrne Facebook)


Watch David Byrne break down the Talking Heads classic 'I Zimbra'


Appearing on Colbert, David Byrne performed an excerpt from his Broadway play American Utopia and even took the time to break down one of Talking Heads’ classic songs, ‘I Zimbra.’

The track introduced Talking Heads’ Fear of Music with exuberant charm, featuring Byrne throwing nonsensical lyrics this way and that, as groove-laden drums and minimalist guitar lines thrum in the background.

American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee, is a stage musical featuring a selection of songs from Byrne’s career, including ‘I Zimbra.’ In this clip, Byrne explains how the piece was inspired by the art world’s creative response to the horrors of World War I, and how artists’ attempt to rekindle their fractured world is not too dissimilar to the process of re-interrogation that we are currently in the midst of.

“My friend Brian Eno suggested we use a nonsense poem by a Dada artist as the lyrics for this song,” he began. “I was familiar with a Dada artist named Kurt Schwitters who recorded a nonsense poem in 1932 called the ‘URSONATE.’ Schwitters and these other artists were using nonsense to make sense of a world that didn’t make sense. To help clarify that, here’s a little bit of the ‘URSONATE.’” Byrne went on to wrap his tongue around a variety of nonsense syllables before deadpanning the line: “It goes on like that for 40 minutes.”

“Another Dada artist, Hugo Ball,” Byrne continued, “Said that their artistic aims were ‘to remind the world that there are people of independent minds, beyond war and nationalism, who live for different ideals.’ Hugo Ball wrote the words to this song.” And, with that, he launched into a rendition of ‘I Zimbra.’

American Utopia is set to return to the St. James Theatre on Broadway on New Year’s Day, where it will run until March 2021. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.