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Jidka (The Line)
Riverboat Records (

Given that Saba was born in Somalia to an Ethiopian mother and an Italian father, you'd expect her music to have a cross-cultural feel. It doesn't. Jidka (The Line) weighs in somewhere between generic Afro-pop and equally faceless hip-hop. Sure, there's acoustic guitar, kora and accordion figuring into some songs, but an overkill of programmed beats casts a cold shadow over the warmer tones. On the plus side, Saba does have an interestingly airy, high-pitched (if often kitschy) voice that serves her well on the playful title track and a few other songs that mix desert blues, contemporary pulses and Zap Mama-like refrains. Unfortunately, there seems to be that not-uncommon problem of trying to sound modern and "world" at the same time. The result is an album that's fairly good at best. For the next release, perhaps it might be good to hire a live drummer, tone down the vocal cuteness by half and get closer to the roots. - Tom Orr

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