15 December 2009

Seheno's Mezmerizing KA

Seheno: KA (LokAnga)

The timing of this album's arrival shortly before Christmas was certainly a coincidence, but that makes it no less of a wonderful gift. A late but solid entry onto my list of best new music of the year, KA is a sparkling blend of Malagasy rhythms and singing with jazz, blues, Indian instruments, and more. Vocalist Seheno has assembled an excellent backing group including precise and spirited percussion from Parbhu Edouard. And the recording is so crisp that one can hear and relish every nuance.

If you're familiar with Malagasy music from artists such as Tarika, D'Gary, Rajery, or Jaojoby, you'll recognize some common elements: rhythms here and there, the accordion on "Teo." But I can safely say you've never heard Malagasy music quite like this. I wouldn't call it fusion in any sense, just the sound of a Madagascar-born woman who integrates the music of her tradition with that of other places she's lived and traveled, including Europe and India.

Vocally, Seheno nears the vocal presence of Angelique Kidjo or Zap Mama's Marie Daulne, with the depth of Comoran singer Nawal. It's a heady combination, right from the a capella start of the title track that leads off the album. On that song, the instrumentation builds to a full Malagasy-infused dance frenzy, then fades back to voices. And voice is the thing -- as great as the music is, it's Seheno's voice that makes this such a compelling album. From the lilting love song "Falyfaly" to the Indian sargam (vocal percussion language) inspired "Gaga," I'm hanging on every syllable. If this is her debut album, what's she going to sound like when she gets better? The icing on the cake is the packaging; the round paper/cardboard CD cover is handmade by artisans in Calcutta with "sensual and eco-friendly materials." From the music to the medium, Seheno's KA is a class act, and this album is sure to launch her to greater recognition from global music fans. Highly recommended!

More Seheno:
website (where you can buy the CD)

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