Music Reviews
KETURAH

KETURAH

Hen House Records

We’ve all heard the six degrees of separation theory, the idea that everyone is somehow connected to everyone else through no more than six people. There used to be a popular website called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where you could see how anyone in the film business was linked to Bacon. The story of how Malawian singer Keturah ended up cutting her debut album on Venice Beach is sort of a six-degrees story.

Keturah cut some records in her home country, which helped her build a local following. Eventually, she caught the attention of French Honorary Consul Luc Deschamps, who recognized Keturah’s potential and brought her to the attention of Harlan Steinberger, director of Hen House Studios. Next thing you know, the Malawian singer is bound for California.

The songs Keturah recorded on her self-titled LP are rooted in Malawian folk traditions and given a pan-African spin by collaborators from the Playing For Change Band. The album has a bright, uplifting sound that Americans will probably find similar to Paul Simon’s Graceland. The album opens with the lyrical guitars and dancing percussion of “Ju Nyumba,” a song more effective than a double espresso and shot of Prozac for getting one out of a funk and into the funky. Keturah takes us on her journey, from paying tribute to stops along the way. “All the Way from Africa” is a shot of joy, and “Udzafele Zina” finds a New Orleans jazz vibe in Mark Pender’s soulful trumpet.

I started this review talking about six degrees of separation. Now let me finish with an example. When Keturah got to America, one of the things she did was go to a Willie Nelson concert. She was so moved by the show that she wrote, “Nchuwewe (Ode to Willie Nelson).” She was joined in the studio recording the song by John Densmore of the Doors and Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelson’s longtime harmonica player.

Keturah’s story and music are testimony to the good things in the world and the connections that bring us together, if we’re just open to them.

Keturah


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