The JourneyReal World
You may have had a taste of the north African pop sound over the years from folks like Natacha Atlas, Aster Aweke and Mahmoud Ahmed, but this is something else again, full-blown, over the top, Somali techno-pop, spearheaded by Afro-Celt imagineers Simon Emmerson and Martin Russell.
The Journey has a lot going for it. Maryam Mursal is not the greatest voice of north Africa, but she is a good one, earthy and impassioned, hanging in the lower registers with passion. She wraps herself around even the most superficial phrases (and there ARE some) in these songs and makes them live. It is often the singer and not the song.
But it is the overall product that is going to make you a die-hard fan or drive you to distraction. The local rhythms are there, as are the local instruments, plus the horns and strings so loved by Ethiopian and Somali bands. But it is soaked in drum machines and synths in barrage of sound samples, multi-layered tracks upon tracks. In spite of my normal knee-jerk reaction to such production, I have to admit that by the third time around with this album I was a fan... a diehard fan at that.
Shining musicianship from all fronts, Somali and European, and tight, creative production find the most modern of grooves being created on the most ancient of instruments. Swirling and satisfying ancient roots are born of the technology. They work together in a way that rarely happens in the world of crossover world-pop, fired by talent and spirit. - CF
Note: Maryam Mursal is part of this year's "Africa Fête" American tour in June and July... see the schedule at the end of the newsletter.