Women of the World: Sandra Nkaké

Title: Nothing for Granted

Artist: Sandra Nkaké

Label: Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi

Formats:  CD, MP3

Release date:  March 20, 2012

 

 

Sandra Nkaké is a singer-songwriter-composer with roots in Cameroon as well as Paris, where she studied English at the Sorbonne before embarking on a duo-career as an actress and singer. Though she cites Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits as influences, her debut album Mansaadi, released in 2008, has a unique jazz funk vibe evoking the smoky cafes of Paris with a dash of Edith Piaf, Cameroonian pop, and Ennio Morricone.  Over the last three years she has performed throughout France, Central Africa, Mexico and Brazil, but is largely unknown in the U.S.

Nkaké’s new album, Nothing for Granted, draws much less upon jazz, striving instead for a moody, experimental, cinematic quality―a soundtrack woven from worldly pop and old school soul.  The highly original compositions by Nkaké and her collaborator, flutist Jî Drû, make a unique personal statement, with lyrics that are often hard hitting calls for political action, no doubt influenced by the strife in her homeland.  For example, on “Rock It Better” she sings “we stand tall for the right of our land, we fight hard, money and suits won’t control our minds for too long,” while the futuristic ballad “Mankind” has a darker message: “the wind is blowing hard today, dust  everywhere / kingdom is going astray, the sun is hot / off the truth we are the nights, gather your troops / white and black horses are coming, to wipe away a world . . .” followed by a refrain urging people to “riot in the name of freedom, riot against oppression, riot in the name of democracy, riot against brutality.”  On “Skeletone” she sings about being a black woman in Paris, while the meditative “No More Trouble” speaks to overcoming adversity and “reaching for stars.”

Following are selections compiled from her live album tour:

 

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Nothing for Granted is a completely engrossing album that defies genre boundaries and it will definitely be added to my summer playlist.  At present the tracks can be streamed for free from Nkaké’s website.

 

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss