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World Music CD Reviews Africa

NAWAL

By Jill Ettinger
Published June 27, 2006

Kweli
Melodie

Tucked between the coast of Eastern Africa and Madagascar lies the archipelago Union of the Comoros. An unpleasant history of siege and conflict has taken its toll on the people of these windswept isles; nonetheless, art struggles not there. Nawal is the first female singer/songwriter to perform publicly, demonstrating the depths of the Comorian tradition on Kweli. Opening with an offering to the All Powerful is the captivating “Al Djalilu.” Bridging traditional acoustic instrumentation with soulful yearning, it is Nawal’s mostly-French-but-who-cares-what-language-it-is-vocals that tear in and grip onto that space, the one only music can find inside us. She imparts a thousand or more years of Arabic and Persian influence through island-interpreted French poetry with both quietude and strength. Weaving her unique vocals around tracks like “Naritsangagnihe” (“Let Us Unite”) and the stunning “Ces Gens-Là” (“Those People”), Nawal proves herself nothing short of a legend in the making. The title track (“Kweli” means “Truth”) is an entrancing orchestration defining the essence of this recording and clearly the artist’s personal journey as well.