Thursday, January 03, 2008

Selection from the Sunday Times Records of the year.

1 SIMPHIWE DANA The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street (Gallo/Warner) A 21st-century take on Miriam Makeba, if you will, as the charismatic South African singer glides through an ethereal song-cycle that blends township soul with black-consciousness slogans and dreamy mysticism. Dana’s ingeniously layered vocals create their own utterly individual soundscape.

2 BUIKA Mi Nina Lola (Warner Jazz) If you can imagine Billie Holiday or Nina Simone being reincarnated as a flamenco artist, you have some idea of the intensity of Buika’s fusion of Andalusian fire, sleek jazz and upmarket R&B. A voice to die for. The sultry piano-based arrangements are flawless too.

3 TARAF DE HAIDOUKS Maskarada (Crammed Discs) Have the wild men from the Romanian hinterland finally been tamed? Not at all. This high-spirited assault on the classical repertoire - from Bartok to Khachaturian and Manuel de Falla - is a million miles from bland crossover. The reckless spirit of the gypsy strings sweeps all before it.

4 IBRAHIM FERRER Mi Sueno (World Circuit) Farewell, old friend. The valedictory performance from the great Cuban singer, his ballads given exemplary backing by that young keyboard firebrand Roberto Fonseca. Ferrer’s wistful duet with the great Omara Portuondo on the standard Quizas, Quizas is simply heart-stopping.

5 MAYRA ANDRADE Navega (Stern’s) Just pipping the delightful album by her Cape Verdean rival, Lura, the youthful Paris-based vocalist celebrates the multifaceted heritage of the islands, and throws in a hint of chanson for good measure. The lissom Andrade briskly upstaged Angélique Kidjo at the Barbican recently. Remember the name.

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