Suzzana Owiya Mama Africa

Armed with an acoustic guitar and a voice that could challenge the forces of nature, Susanna Owiya, who is already considered the Tracy Chapman of Kenya, has released a debut with one foot in the past and one in the future. Hailing from the Lake Victoria district, Owiya's songs pay tribute to her Lou heritage both musically, by incorporating traditional instrumentation such as the one-stringed orutu and the nyatiti, and by not only taking on traditional themes in her writing, but also by addressing modern day events. For instance, her current hit, "Kisuma 100," played once in a folk arrangement and again at the end of the album in a Benga style dance mix, is an ode to her city on the occasion of its 100th anniversary and encourages people to invest in its future. Going back and forth between traditional sounds and the more modern Lou pop, where drum and bass dominate the mix, works well for Owiya. She never loses her acoustic rural feel since acoustic guitar licks still feature prominently in these songs, but the club vibe will no doubt open a much bigger international market for her. Tracks of note include "Ngoma," an impassioned love song to African music with only hand drum accompaniment, "Mama Africa" a sad slow ballad sung for the millions of toiling women in Africa, and "Lek Ne Wounda" featuring Nessecary Noize. The latter, with its dub delays, steady rim shots and keyboard chanks, makes one sweet Afro-reggae song. Owiya may not be Mama Africa yet but she won't be going away anytime soon if she's got more of the same up her sleeve. (Arc)