Keturah – Keturah
I don’t understand the language but the woman’s voice gets into my head. It decorates my mind with so many bright musical colors. I’ve no answer. From the opener “Ku Nyumba,” Keturah’s words & melody come from the same well of inspiration as Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Johnny Clegg’s Julukka (“Scatterlings of Africa”).
The 27-year-old comes from Malawi. This is her superb 10-track debut which chronicles her adventure from a tiny remote village (Monza) to the shores of Venice (California). It’s a mix of traditional Malawian folk music with a generous pinch of contemporary rhythms. To older ears, she will summon memories of “Pata Pata,” by the late South African singer Miriam Makeba (1967). I was just a teenage kid in New Jersey & I bought it. I listened to it & still do.
Hers is not mainstream music or commercial music — it’s world music. It easily captures any ear & attracts it like an early morning flower that attracts a bee.
The long titled “Kwanumkwanu,” with syncopating guitar & Keturah’s angelic tone (some English lyrics) encapsulates the marvels of the human voice. The 42-minute self-titled CD Keturah (Drops May 19–Henhouse Studios) features quite a cast of supporting rhythm players that include The Doors’ John Densmore (percussion/shaker/tambourine).
The songs blend genres. Upbeat afro-folk-funk, some emotive ballads, American-inspired tunes, lighthearted songs — always with intricate percussion, melodic guitar passages, backing vocals & horns. An eclectic showcase that’s never boring.
Of course, if Keturah tries an all-English CD she’ll reach a far wider audience. She does so here with a marvelous dive into Ode to Willie Nelson — “Nchiwewe.” It features a country-influenced harmonica & Keturah’s soaring vocals. Impressive. Most accessible is “Sukulu,” with its gentle melody & catchy pop infectious arrangement with (violin, viola, cello & acoustic guitar).
“Udzafele Zina,” goes New Orleans with trumpet & plunger to tease out the ghost of Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven. Keturah’s vocals are slinky & entertaining. Her vowels are open & her range — enticing.
Americana? Yes. Just like Irish-Celtic-British-Scottish melodies are engrained in Appalachia. African sharecroppers & slaves brought their homeland music here & shaped it into ragtime, blues & jazz. Americana at its spiritual rootsiest.
Highlights – “Ku Nyumba,” “Kwanumkwanu,” “Nchiwewe (Ode to Willie Nelson),” “All the Way From Africa,” “Sukulu,” “Udzafele Zina” & “Samala.”
Musicians – Mermans Mosengo (drums/shaker/bgv/Calabash/bass drum/tambourine/cabasa/clave), Magatte Sow (congas/shaker/talking drum/Djembe/Sabar drum/bell), Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Jason Tamba (acoustic & electric guitar/bgv/banjo), Harlan Steinberger (Surdo/conga), Louis Mhlanga (acoustic lead guitar), Chris Tuttle & Jamael Dean (pianos), Mickey Raphael (harmonica), Chris Pierce, Kara Mack, Megan M. Ryck, Bella, Simone & Satchita Mosengo (bgvs), Prince Diabate (Kora), Jake Falby (violin/viola/cello), Mark Pender (trumpet with plunger) & Matt DeMerritt (sax).
Cover picture/CD images courtesy of Victor Praise Mkandawire, Randi Malkin Steinberger & her Bandcamp site CD @ https://keturahlocalgirl.bandcamp.com/album/keturah