Review by Bry Webb – The Waterloo Region Record
Amai Kuda:Sand From the Sea (independent)
“the brightest new Canadian talent this year”
The debut album from this Toronto artist opens with just her voice and handclaps: it’s all she needs to instantly establish herself as a captivating presence. The instant the fully fleshed out instrumental arrangements appear, it’s obvious those are just gravy. Kuda herself is the whole package.
Indeed, one of the biggest strengths of Sand From the Sea is that Kuda’s voice is always front and centre; the arrangements never clutter her space, and even on the modern-day R&B tracks she often strips everything to their essence, and more than a few tracks could be blues hollers or traditional African songs. Kuda draws from diverse black diaspora traditions — central African music, blues, hip-hop, reggae and soul — immersing herself in whatever sounds are surrounding her at the moment, never sounding like she’s trying on a new set of clothes. She also has the songwriting chops to pull it all off. For all its eclecticism, Sand From the Sea doesn’t sound like a hodgepodge; it’s a consistently strong debut that instantly marks Kuda as the brightest new Canadian talent this year.
And yet for Kuda — who is painfully modest in her blog postings on her website — it’s obvious that music is a means to an end for her: almost every track carries a message of social justice. Sometimes it’s extremely effective, sometimes it sounds like every activist musician you ever saw play a benefit show in the ’90s. Even at her preachiest, however, Kuda is still compelling, her voice recalling the best work of Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. She’s definitely her own woman, however: smart, sensual, and righteous — and with one hell of a debut behind her.
Some media reaction to the new album
Ken Stowar (Programme Director CIUT) “love the CD”
Sonia Arab (Music Programmer CBC Radio 1) “From the first time I put the CD in the player I thought ‘Wow’.”
Errol Nazareth (CBC Radio 1, Toronto Sun) “I was taken with this album from the first cut – that features Amai singing, clapping and stomping her feet – to the last song which is an incantation.”
Nicholas Jennings (TV programmer, journalist) wrote.. “Brilliant. One of the year’s most exciting new discoveries.”
David Dacks (CIUT, Exclaim) ‘a good record’ (which he will review this week for Exclaim”)
Review by Daivid Dacks -Exclaim.ca
Reviews of this album will unfortunately tend to be dismissive. There’s no getting around the politically and culturally charged content of this disc ― the debut of the daughter of acclaimed novelist M. Nourbese Philip will make folks uncomfortable. This record is a descendant of Toronto’s dub poetry boom of the ’80s. It’s constructed of densely woven spoken, rapped and chanted words. Essentially it’s a folk record employing various North American and African techniques. Soul, jazz, blues and an extensive use of percussion are part of the conversation. Her politics are quite progressive and may simply be viewed as strident by some, but strong songwriting makes the difference as she explores social justice, sexuality, the environment and much more. The production adds deft electronics and complex yet driving rhythms to set the pace. The fact that there are few tonal instruments or keyboards makes for a less sweetened, but tastier, musical experience; it’s the vocals and percussion that make up most of what you hear. This hits too hard to ignore.
BEST LOCAL DEBUT From an article in In Toronto on the top 5 recordings of 2011
Amai Kuda, Sand from the Sea (Independent)
Review of Sand From The Sea
This social activist (and daughter of the writer M Nourbese Philip) made a wise move when she decided to use music to spread her progressive messages about love, justice, anger and standing up for yourself. Kuda has a supple, expressive and lovely voice, and she needs little more than mesmerizing rhythmic backdrops (provided by percussion instruments, hand claps, drums, beats, finger snaps… you name it), vocal harmonies and the occasional acoustic guitar or keyboard to win over listeners with her synthesis of African folk, delta blues, spoken word, dancehall and gospel influences.