Posted by Mitch Michaels on 01.31.2008
Half Italian, half Somali actress turned singer combines traditional African music with a contemporary flare on her debut…
World music. Are you still with me?
Since “world music” in the US is simply a marketing term to describe “shit that’s in a different language”, there’s no real “sound” that is truly associated with world music. But in a way, we have our own idea of what all “world music” sounds like, don’t we? There are big drum beats, probably a Spanish sounding acoustic guitar, possibly a choir and a bunch, well, shit that’s in a different language.
After reading about Saba’s life story, I figured that she would be an interesting artist to cover, world music or not. So the big question is, despite our language barrier (and if someone out there can speak this Somali dialect, then by all means, e-mail me and tell me why I missed the mark), will this CD be pleasing to my American ears?
The story of Saba Anglana is one of struggle, exploration and triumph. Saba was born in Mogadishu, the unstable capital of Somalia, during the oppressive rule of Siad Barre. Saba’s mother was born to an exiled Somalian in neighboring Ethiopia. Her father, on the other hand, was a former Italian military leader who left Italy for Somalia following WWII. This made Saba’s heritage somewhat unique, as relationships between Somalia, Ethiopia and Italy have always been strained. Saba’s father was looked at suspiciously as a possible Italian spy (Somali had only just escaped Italian rule in the late 60’s) and eventually he and his family (including Saba and her sister) were exiled to Italy.
The forced exit from Somalia left an impression on young Saba. As she grew, she began to feel more and more spiritual connection to her homeland. Though she would sometimes travel to Ethiopia to visit her mother’s family, it would be a long time before Saba would see Somalia again.
|Half Italian, half Somali actress turned singer|
Saba grew up in Italy, then, and attended the Sapienza University of Rome, where she received an Art History degree. Though Saba’s plans were to become a mosaicist, she soon took to acting. Saba described her acting career as hard at times. Because of her mixed heritage, most casting agents felt she was too dark skinned to play an Italian, but too light skinned to play an African. Still, Saba eventually made it on the small screen, most famously on Italian TV series “La Squadra”, where she played a half-Somali, half-Italian police woman.
Recently, Saba has put her acting career on hold to begin work on her first ever album. The main goal of the recording is to tell the story of her and her family.
On January 29, 2008, Riverboat Records and the World Music Network released Jidka, the debut album by actress Saba. In English, Jidka is translated to “The Line”.
The Band: 8.0
When you think of the word “fusion” in world music, the automatic vision you get is some kind of tourism commercial with clips of people from another country doing a traditional dance while dressed in contemporary clothes interspersed with scenes of them living it up in a foreign night spot. What? You don’t think of that too?
Well, Jidka is most definitely a fusion album, but it’s done so in such an earnest way that you know it’s not promoting anything. In fact, you get the feeling that Saba and her collaborators (specifically Taté Nsongan and producer Fabio Barovero of Mau Mau fame) didn’t set out to “fuse” anything, rather to tell a true story of a contemporary Italian woman who longs to feel connected to her African roots. The sound they have stumbled upon, though, is so universal that it literally transcends the language barrier.
The production on Jidka is completely contemporary, bordering on urban, with a slick feel to it and plenty of well-placed bongos and breezy synths. This is counterbalanced by Nsongan’s very warm, full acoustic guitar, which anchors the whole album and, along with a traditional kora (a sort of African hapr-lute) which shows up here and there, gives Jidka the earthy vibe that is its second greatest pleasure. The first? Saba herself, who provides some very amazing, emotional vocal work. Unlike most “world music”, which, by the time it reaches America seems to have devolved into someone singing very well in another language, Saba’s voice is less polished than it is honest. There’s a breathiness that mixes with this raw quality that makes Saba, already a good singer, completely alluring and engaging.
The Songs: 7.0
1. I Sogni (Dreams)
2. Hoio (Mum)
3. Hanfarkaan (This Wind)
4. Jidka (The Line)
5. Le Temps Passe (Time Goes By)
6. Manta (Today)
7. Yenne Yenne (Everyone Has Their Own Duty)
8. Furah (The Key)
9. Je Suis Petite (I Am Little)
10. Boqoroda Meskin (Pauper Queen)
12. Huwaiahuwa (Lullaby)
It’s kind of hard to review songs when you can’t understand the words, but Saba has helped us out a little by putting the song meanings inside the liner notes. Jidka is made up of some very heavy themes. “I Sogni”, the opener, tells the story of a young girl who leaves her small village for the big city, only to find herself missing the small pleasures of her hometown. “Hoio” is about a parent being separated from her child. “Yenne Yenne” is a call to action to the repressed and those in power who refuse to change things. “Je Suis Petite” is dedicated to Africa and its struggles. This isn’t your typical pop album.
Still, the overall feel of Jidka is quite uplifting. Songs like “Furah” and “Jidka” (which is literally talking about “the line” that runs down Saba’s stomach, separating dark skin from lighter skin) are amazingly danceable, while “Boqoroda Meskin” (based on an Ethiopian wedding song) is a great bit of traditional percussion.
Despite the few moments on the album when Saba shifts to English, perhaps the most relatable song is “Hanfarkaan”, a track about how our loved ones who are no longer with us touch us in the wind. While the words, once again, are lost on the non-Somali speakers, the spirit is completely understood thanks to Saba’s wrenching, gorgeous vocal work.
The 411: Jidka isn’t for everyone, make no mistake. If you aren’t into expanding your linguistic pallet or at least an Afro-beat, you’re just not gonna get it. But for those who enjoy pop music for its sheer visceral power, you will find something to like here. Saba is an amazing singer and the tracks are upbeat, filled with a deep sense of culture and meaning. Definitely one of the best fusion records in a while. From any continent.
Final Score: 7.5 [ Good ] legend
Source:114mani.com,Thursday, January 31, 2008