Kaissa: I Am So Happy (2011)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Blessed with a vocal timbre that invokes aural images of her native Cameroon, Kaïssa carries on the musical traditions of Africa with poise and precision on I Am So Happy, . Staying true to her roots, she sings in the indigenous languages of Doula and Zulu, transcending barriers of translation with a sincerity beyond boundaries or borders.
This is an admirable self-production, with the vocals prominent in the mix, the accompanying musicians setting the backdrop for Kaïssa's stories. With an almost minimalistic approach, the songs are very comfortable and relaxed. Special recognition is due to both guitarist Greg Fine and bassist Fred Doumbe, who shine on the softer acoustic numbers, executed with a distinctive African feel. "Makala Ma Mbassi" is a lighthearted blues which strays from the format, but Kaïssa obviously enjoyed singing this one and it shows. "Ntyilo Ntyilo," is her dedication to Miriam Makeba, acknowledging her as friend and mentor.
Kaïssa wrote the lyrics to ten out of the fourteen tracks, strongly focused on the social injustices and problems which are so widespread in modern Africa. Having a firsthand and homegrown account of situations such as constant civil war, famine, slavery, and the sadness of the Diaspora, she conveys with credibility to which few artists can acclaim or adhere, the most poignant being "Fanta" which deals with the Female Genital Mutilation issue, affecting millions of African girls, and clearly meriting wider recognition and exposure to the world. Kaïssa has lent her voice to such causes throughout her career, and continues this trend here, emphatically hoping for a better world.
Having been heralded as 'the new voice of Africa,"with this release Kaïssa has come into her own as a songwriter, producer, and musical artist, whose endowment is in full bloom.
Track Listing: Baka; I Am So Happy; Eyala; Lonon; Nengue Dipita; Oa; Mandjou;
Afrobeat; Fanta; Ghetto In The Sahara; Makala Ma Mbassi; Myango;
Ntyilo Ntyilo; Mamalodie.
Personnel: Kaïssa: vocals; Greg Fine: guitar, keyboard, drum programming, bass
(4, 8, 10, 11); Fred Doumbe: bass (2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 14); Maciek Schejbal: drums and percussion (2, 4-6, 14); Joshua Dekaney: percussion (3, 5); Khaly Dia Diatta: male vocals (9); Tony Cedras: accordion (3); Andre Manga: organ (11); Morgane Mpacko: background vocals (11); Jojo Kuo:drums (12); Andre Manga: bass (12).
Record Label: Self Produced