Bamako, the fifth album from Simphiwe Dana, marks 16 years of her recording profession. To the dismay of her followers, a number of days previous to the album’s long-awaited launch, the South African singer-songwriter introduced that this is able to be her final.
An iconic determine within the nation’s cultural life, Dana hails from the Japanese Cape and is a singer, composer and producer. The biggest a part of her musical output is sung in her residence language – isiXhosa, together with her most liked songs akin to Ndiredi, Zandisile, Bantu Biko Avenue and Ilolo.
Dana’s voice can also be political. She is thought for fearlessly participating others, typically by means of her social media accounts, on points round social ills, politics and her private struggles, akin to home abuse.
These shared lived-experiences permit the listener to achieve a deeper perception into the subject material on her albums – together with her new one – whereas additionally making her relatable to, and typically condemned by, the general public.
Bamako introduces new instrumental parts, however Dana’s supply is constant along with her earlier albums. Her musical identification has at all times been mirrored in her distinctive sound and method, her reward of songwriting and articulation thereof, her use of cyclical concord and easy but ornamented melodies and cross-rhythms. All are evident on the brand new album.
Within the new work there may be, nonetheless, a heightened sensitivity that brings the which means of the songs to life in new methods.
Dana has spoken brazenly about her psychological well being challenges, and in mild of her struggles over the previous few years, this album could be considered as a specific triumph.
Simphiwe Dana has a definite voice. Wealthy, lustrous, soulful and hypnotic. Vocally, one can hear influences of indigenous and jazz music, notably in her articulation and attribute blues-like bent-note melodic method.
A characteristic throughout her albums, particularly her first three, is the layered, textured and complex use of harmonies. Whereas the melodies are sometimes easy and repetitive, the richness of the lyrical content material provides a special dynamic, particularly in her articulation of the Xhosa dialect’s rhythmic and tonal options.
Dana’s deep lyrical skill has continued to develop all through her canon and that is evident in her interpretation of the music on Bamako. The rhythm offered by the instrumental accompaniment, notably within the extra traditionally-influenced materials, coupled with the rhythm of her singing and the intricate harmonies, typically creates a cross-rhythmic impact. This hypnotic impact takes the listener on a journey.
A way of residence
Bamako is co-produced by the legendary Salif Keita and named after the capital metropolis of his residence nation Mali, the place the album was recorded. There’s a sturdy guitar presence all through the album, the work of Vieux Farka Touré.
The thirteen-track album is Dana’s shortest. Musically, it incorporates stylistic parts that dominated Kulture Noir (2010) and Firebrand (2015), conventional musical influences and dance-like parts.
Bamako includes a sturdy sense of “residence” juxtaposed with a shift within the sense of place by means of being transported by the Malian influences.
Dana underwent a vocal twine process in the direction of the top of 2018, lower than a 12 months earlier than this album was recorded. Whereas this under no circumstances impacts the standard of her supply, a show of her full vocal vary, demonstrated in earlier songs akin to Nzinga and Chula ukunyathela, is absent.
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Usikhonzile, an ode to an unnamed chief, is a becoming opening, with layered harmonies delivered delicately, including to the lyricism, supported by a dance groove. Kumnyama displays a mind-set because the singer reminisces on misplaced love.
A journey to Mali
The West African influences are instantly audible within the rhythmic and melodic concepts within the instrumentation. The 2-chord accompaniment is heightened by the cross-rhythms, paying homage to the minimalism evident in Kulture Noir. It develops a ritualistic sound, and one can nearly visualise a ceremony happening. That is additionally evident in different songs akin to Zabalaza.
Uzokhala additionally reveals Malian influences, coupled with the swing of Dana’s singing fashion. The standard of her enunciation provides to the interpretation. The tune options drone-like accompaniment with slight variations within the concord at sure factors.
Mama Was A Kitchen Lady, expressed by means of a easy melody, speaks to inequality in society, as does Zabalaza.
Masibambaneni options Salif Keita singing sections of his well-known tune Africa. Dana ‘sings’ her thoughts, encouraging togetherness amongst Africans by means of delicate vocal supply.
Songs akin to Gwegweleza, on the results of egocentric actions, and You Preserve Calling, a tune about love, characteristic parts of reggae. Dana shares emotional wisdoms all through. The completely different phases of affection are additional expressed in songs akin to Bye Bye Naughty Child, Ndizamile and Mr I.
The political flame retains burning on Bamako. Mkhonto is a battle tune that’s approached as such with its cyclical and easy harmonies, enhanced by Dana’s exploration of lead melodies and vocal textures.
The title monitor, Bamako, is unusually the shortest tune on the album, at slightly below two minutes. The melody and supply look to current a special method from Dana’s normal melodies. The listener mechanically craves extra however doesn’t obtain it.
You may stream Bamako over right here.