Saba

Jidka (The Line) (Riverboat)

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There's an uncomfortable sense of placelessness to the sound of Saba's debut CD. Though it could be attributed to her press-release ready biography (Italian/Ethiopian parents, Somali birthplace) or the diverse array of musicians on the disc (from Cameroon, Senegal, and Italy), there's also the nagging sense that it's simply a case of wanting to be too many things to too many people. The strikingly beautiful singer isn't possessed of a particularly impressive voice, though she wields the thin, breathy instrument with plenty of personality, especially on the kora-touched wispiness of "Furah," one of Jidka's few truly effective numbers. But seemingly unaware of the limitations of her singing, Saba nonetheless attempts to be both a hip-hop stylist, a torch singer, a bush balladeer, pop groover, chant leader, and earnest folkie. While some artists like Zap Mama's Marie Daulne can get away with such cheeky culture clashes, Daulne is both more inventive and more inherently talented than Saba. None of this is to say that Jidka doesn't have its moments; in fact, it has too many of them. The anthemic pop of "Melissa" boasts a heart-wrenching message, a catchy chorus, and one of many impressive vocal contributions from Tate Nsongan; unfortunately, none of them seems to complement any of the others. This fate befalls both individual cuts and Jidka as a whole, and it's a pity that so many of these good ideas have been squandered on such an out-of-focus record.

 
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