Suzzana Owiyo

Mama Africa

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AllMusic Review by

The latest album from the "Tracy Chapman of Africa" provides more of what Suzanna Owiyo has become known for -- relatively light songs with guitar accompaniment and a social focus. Surprisingly, despite being renowned for her guitar abilities, Owiyo opts to use other players on guitar and focus on her vocals here. The album opens with her breakout hit from 2002 celebrating the centennial of Kisumu. As the album progresses, there are a number of songs on acoustic guitar with lingering vocal techniques abounding. The first switch from this format comes in the form of "Ngoma," a celebration of proper African music that breaks out a squadron of Luo drums to pound out a thick rhythm that isn't particularly the focus of the rest of the album. There's a bit of dancehall thrown into "Sandore" and similarly, "Suna Ka Ngeya" is transformed from a traditional song about insect-borne diseases into a house anthem. Finally, "Lek Ne Wounda" incorporates some thick dub aesthetics and a bit of rap over the top, and the album ends on a remix of "Kisumu 100" with a heavy dose of benga. In between each of these newly styled items, the sound returns to the acoustic traditional format, complete with a Tracy Chapman-esque voice to cement the parallels. The sound is very good, and the mix between old and new is rather standard fare for contemporary African releases. As such, this album breaks no new ground to speak of, but is still an enjoyable listen.

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