Sudanese-Italian singer/songwriter Amira Kheir’s ‘mesmerising’ first album ‘comes from a place of gritty determination and commitment by the artist to her art. And it may be that we can all learn something from that determination,’ writes Hannah Gibson.
As a gift to the world View from somewhere speaks from a place of passion with songs that sound neither like a labour of love nor a hard day’s work. ‘I’m just lucky to be able to get up every day and do what I love’, says Amira Kheir. And the reality is that you don’t need to meet her and ask her about her album to know that.
Each song on the album has its own life and it’s own distinct sound. A song sung in Arabic gives way to one sung in English. Flute blends with oud in ‘Allaleya’ whilst the double bass in ‘Disposable world’ is contagious. Guitar joins kora which heralds the arrival of the saxophone. And so it is easy to see why the reviews have been full of terms like ‘fusion’ and other hyphenated attempts to define the identity of the singer and her songs. But songs replete with references to different musical traditions transcend the imposition of superficial boundaries. The range of instruments and indeed the songs themselves should not surprise us. They reflect the musicians who have collaborated on this album and what comes to life at the meeting of their music. The instruments may come from around the world, but View from somewhere comes direct from London.
And what does this album tell us? That an independent artist can, with her first album, release songs into the world that are complex both in their own right and in their combination. That we should stop guessing and start listening. That this is what people can say too. And more simply, I challenge anyone to listen to the album without getting the mesmerising tune from ‘Kullu Wahid’ or the hypnotic tones of ‘Alhel Allel’ stuck in their head.
The album says as much about us, the listeners, as it does about the world. If we’re prepared to be quiet, the message is one worth listening to. From the first track to the last, and all of the spaces in between, this music comes from a place of gritty determination and commitment by the artist to her art. And it may be that we can all learn something from that determination.
The new year sees Amira head to the world-renown Festival du Desert in Mali and it’s hard to believe that such a stage will do anything but further fuel her dedication to her craft and her voice. If the view is from somewhere, then surely that’s somewhere we should all try and escape to every now and then. Somewhere where passion and creativity rain down. A distant cry from the percussion of the desert and yet, at by the same token, right next door.
And whatever other plans the world has for Amira, her plan for us is quite clear – ‘Just more. More music, more songs, just more of this’. So we can sit back confidently and wait for the next album. It’s bound to come, and its bound to be better. Whether it will have a more singular voice and whether the world will have succeeded to more successfully pigeon-hole Amira, remains to be seen. But I know what I’m hoping for.
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* Hannah Gibson is a writer and researcher, with much of her work focusing on Africa. She is currently pursuing a PhD in linguistics at the School of Oriental and African studies in London. She is a co-founder of on:africa, a web-based thematic journal dedicated to high-quality research and creative responses to Africa.
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