For a recording that combines, jazz, rock, gospel soul and r&b with Slovakian folk melodies, look no farther. HANKA G, who has artists as different as Abbey Lincoln and McCoy Tyner as her models, was raised in Mongolia, coming to the United States in 2018. This is her first stateside recording, and it is an innovative album for people fond of crossing cultures, mindscapes, ethnic and racial boundaries.
She kicks things off with a grittier, rougher version of the ill-starred Whitney Houston's "All the Man I Need." Houston was soulful but subtle, but Hanna's version is somehow appropriately brasher for someone pushing boundaries. "Be Grateful" is Walter Hawkin's full on gospel song, "God Has Not Promised Me Sunshine," which follows a little uncomfortably on Whitney Houston's "All The Man I Need." Chaka Khan 1980 r&b hit "Through the Fire" comes next, sung with authority, perhaps all the more impressive for holding herself out for comparison with Khan's powerful and wide-ranging voice. "As You Are" reaches even further back into the late 1970s, at least as originally done by Pharoah Sanders and Phyllis Hyman.
Donnie Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free" may not be familiar to a younger generation of listeners, but it meant a great deal to people struggling with all sorts of pain, including Hathaway himself, who passed away at only 33 y.ears of age. Once again, Hanka G picked a song written by a genius, and deeply identified with him. So much of this is the music of a very different ageironically, in some ways, more hopeful, but difficult all the same. Songs by Abbey Lincoln ("Throw It Away") and McCoy Tyner ("In Search of My Heart") round out what is, in essence, a respectful survey of a wide range of African American music. It may, perhaps, strike some as unusual that it required someone born well outside the tradition to recognize the power and beauty of this work for what it is. Hanka G's uniquely international take on the music only further serves to emphasize that it is the content and meaning of the sentiments that matter and not some accident of birth that inform true art, rather than mere "cultural appropriation."
All The Man That I Need;
Through The Fire;
As You Are;
Someday We'll All Be Free;
Throw It Away;
Them There Eyes;
In Search Of My Heart;
I Am Such A Pretty Girl;
Bird Has Started Singing.
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