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Künstler: Saba
Komponist: Saba
Label: Riverboat


The debut from Somali-born, Italian-based actress and singer Saba is a quiet and surprising joy. It handily and easily mixes African music -- not just from Somalia, but also Cameroon and Senegalese kora -- with what's best called R&B lite, courtesy of Fabio Barovero, the founder of Italian world music band Mau Mau. It works very well indeed. The insistent riff on the title cut sounds like strict R&B, but listen again and you can hear Africa in it -- this is a record that changes your perspectives. Saba is at her best in her own language, a kind of Somali dialect, rather than when she occasionally slips into English, which sounds forced and unconvincing -- "Melissa" is a perfect example. Although the production can seem a little slick, there's a playful atmosphere to it all, and it connects the dots between Africa and American pop. It's easy to dismiss this is friendly Afro-pop, but there's more going on here. Whether it's a deliberate effort to merge forms or not, it creates something new and very satisfying. It's at its most rooted on "Furah," which brings in a griot voice and kora, but it's far from traditional, and the same applies to the percussion-fueled "Boqoroda Meskin." Saba herself has more African grit than American polish in her voice, which certainly helps propel the disc. At the same time, the music takes a lot of its cues from R&B -- just listen to the opening of "Je Suis Petite," for example. This is an album not just to move your feet and put a smile on your face, but to make you think, too. ~ Chris Nickson