Her forthcoming LP to support AMREF’s work in Kenya
Music is the most effective of way of communicating powerful messages and profound feelings, says Saba Anglana, an Afro-Italian musician.
Saba, who is a singer and songwriter, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her mother is originally from Ethiopia while her father is an Italian.
Saba decided to become a musician when she realized that through it, she could communicate messages which could not be easily communicated using others means.
“Music is the best means of telling something because people easily understand it,” she says.
As a musician, she strives to communicate something about herself, about her birth in one continent (Africa) and growing up in another (Europe).
Like many people of mixed heritage, Saba says she always feel incomplete. “You always feel that something is missing in your identity,” she says.
This feeling pushes one into looking for something extra to complete his/her identity. It also makes one want to discover more about him/herself.
Saba feels that the African part of her was dormant for a while. This is probably because she grew up away from Africa, went to Western schools, had Western friends, etc.
But at a point she developed the desire to explore her African identity. Saba is still carrying on the research to discover her African identity, a research which may end up becoming a life long journey. “It’s not easy to understand who you are,” she says.
Saba, however, is not in a hurry to get to the end of her research. “What really matters is the process,” she says, adding that “I’m at a good point, but still on the journey.”
The search for her identity made her make a visit to Ethiopia, her mother’s home country.
Saba says that when she first landed in Ethiopia, she had a feeling of being in land with which she had a strong link, but at the same time she was considered a foreigner.
Saba reveals that people of mixed heritage risk always feeling out of place because they belong to different places. She, however, points out that they must learn to turn any place into their home. This requires getting to know the place you go to in a deeper way, she says.
This is what Saba does in order to be able to narrate what she experiences wherever she goes to.
“As a mixed race person, you must be strong psychologically and physically.” Saba holds that wherever you happen to find yourself, it’s important to have a true dialogue with the people you meet there, go for spiritual growth, and develop positive feelings. She now feels she belongs to all countries she goes to.
Saba is currently preparing a new album which will be released in March 2012. The album is inspired by her journey to Kenya with AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation).
AMREF is an international African organisation headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. The organisation’s “mission is to ensure that every African can enjoy the right to good health by helping to create vibrant networks of informed communities that work with empowered health care providers in strong health systems.”
AMREF invited her to come and see for herself how people live in different parts of Kenya where the organisation has humanitarian projects. Saba and Mr. Fabio Barovero, her producer, spent almost two months visiting the country. Saba plans to use her forthcoming album to share with the world what she saw and experienced in Kenya.
She visited slums in Nairobi and had life changing conversations with the people there. Saba was struck to discover that there are places where only having a well means a lot for the people.
During her journey, Saba observed that people in the rural areas are more optimistic and happier. “The further you moved from the city, the happier the people you met,” she says.
Observing that the richer people become in general, the sadder they become, Saba says there is need for a balance. The rich should become less rich but happier while the poor should become rich and happier.
She also refutes the common idea that Africa needs help. “The only help Africa needs is help to no longer need help,” she says.
Saba is critical of help during emergencies. It is good but it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s better to do something to prevent future emergencies, she says.
Her 12 track album which will feature songs in Swahili, English, and Somali, was recorded live using a mobile studio in Kenya. It will feature voices of people in various local communities Saba visited, including voices of Kenyan children. The album will also feature Kayamba Africa, one of the most famous Kenyan bands.
Saba plans to use the LP as a means of giving the local Kenyan communities a chance of telling their story, letting the world hear their voices and messages.
This is why for now, the album’s working title is “Waambie” a Swahili word meaning “Tell them”. That’s exactly what the people she met in Kenya told her. “Go and tell others what you’ve seen and heard here, tell them the issues affecting us.”
Saba would like the messages in her new LP to reach a wider audience, not only those interested in what’s happening in African countries.
While many may think that such an album only addresses issues affecting people in developing countries, Saba says that the message is relevant in every part of the world because the same issues affect people all over.
The album addresses universal themes, Saba says. Justice, for instance, is an issue affecting people in both developed and developing countries. The same can be said of the situation of women in the society. The other issues addressed in the new LP are access to medical care and water, and right to happiness, which Saba says should be made a universal human right.
She feels sorry that traditional African music is rapidly disappearing in countries like Kenya, where she had to struggle to find musicians playing traditional music.
Saba holds that the world is not culturally ready for free music, what she calls music without borders.
She observes that normally attempts are made to classify music into categories such as Reggae, Rumba, World, etc. As a musician, Saba has deliberately decided to compose music that can’t be easily classified.
Music shops in fact normally have difficulties in deciding on which shelf to put her music. This in a way reflects Saba’s identity. Her music for instance, can’t be classified as either Italian, or Somali. At the same time, it can’t be classified as traditional African music because she incorporates both modern and traditional elements from many parts of the world. Saba simply doesn’t want her music to be classified in terms of style.
There are however key issues that are recurrent in Saba’s music. One of them is water and the importance of its conservation. Water is life and love, she says, adding that it is also a source of unity. Saba has in fact titled one of her albums “Biyo”, a Somali word for water.
Another important issue Saba frequently talks about in her music is the bridge, revealing her ambition to unite people of different cultures.
Closely related to the bridge is the line, which Saba describes as a point of contact between different cultures. She stresses that the line should not be a barrier.
Saba holds that music facilitates the meeting between people from all backgrounds. Saba’s advice to those aspiring to become musicians is: “Stay away from reality shows, they are fiction.”
Reality shows, according to Saba, can make a musician compose music which doesn’t reflect the musician’s true identity. “They make you create what you are not,” she says. “You can be a successful musician without being very popular, without appearing on reality shows.”
Saba who is convinced that each musician should be authentic and original, advises aspiring musicians to discover their own styles and bank on their cultural experiences. “Make efforts to be original, create your own sound without thinking of or aping what others have done in the past,” she says.
Saba also believes that musicians should make journeys to discover themselves, and use their music to tell who they are and what they do. “Tell what you are, what you do, in your music,” she says. “If you have something to tell, go ahead and do so, don’t let anyone block you from doing so.”
SABA ANGLANA’S LINKS
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a