Thursday, March 09, 2006

Samite: Embalasasa

by Ladron de Tebeos

Howdy, howdy movie fans, just got back from checking out some Oscar footage. You’ll have to pardon me if I’m a little incoherent; staring obsessively at Jennifer Garner’s pregnancy-induced cleavage has caused the blood to leave my brain.

Today, we’re going to be reviewing a new album called Embalasasa, by the artist Samite. Now this sounded like the kind of album where I might want to purchase a little verde from my good friend Fumo Verde to enhance the experience. However, he’s currently residing in the local lock-up at the moment. Something about public nudity and committing unnatural acts with an animal. So, I’ll have to roll sober on this one.

Embalasasa is the beautiful, multi-colored, but poisonous lizard that surfaced all over Samite’s Ugandan homeland when he was 12-years-old. “Whenever an embalasasa came into the house, we all climbed on top of a table and called my grandfather to come and kill it. We knew we were safe as long as grandpa was around; he used his walking cane to protect us.”

“On the title song, I call my grandpa to come with his walking cane and kill the modern embalasasa, AIDS, a deadly disease transmitted through the most beautiful, vibrant and natural act.” The albums songs draw on Ugandan folklore, geography and struggle to express words of allegory, healing and hope. In addition to AIDS, his curative songs address war, intolerance, the death of a loved one and survival.

This is one of those albums you need to be in a mellow, happy kind of mood to enjoy, (hence my desire for some verde) because the music itself is melodious and kind, and Samite sings in the warmest and mellowest of gentle voices, picture Bobby McFerrin on tranquilizers, being backed by flutes and kalimbas. If you don’t like being lulled then it will drive you batty.

“Give me something a little up-tempo,” you’ll eventually say. “Why does he have to be so pleasant and earnest all the time? It’s like having a Jehovah’s Witness at your door for 45 minutes. Despite some definite good moments, the song "Nawe Okiwulira" sounds like one of those Afro-funk fusions the Talking Heads attempted, only a lot better, this is why people write off most world music as New Age niceness. It’s not bad, but yaaaaawwwwnnn…

The album moves from flute to percussion to guitar to singing, and overall, I’d say there’s enough good moments here to half-heartedly recommend Embalasasa. Kind of a rainy day album to put on when you felt like being slow and lazy. Of course, truth be told, I find it kind of hard to criticize Samite, simply because he’s far more of an awesome human being than me and most everyone I know or have known—he works with war orphans and he’s the director of the Musicians for World Harmony organization—but there are less-awesome guys out there who are making much more compelling albums than this.