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Samite: Stars To Share

Ugandan-born Samite is another African who has made his way to America, musically and also literally, having been based on the east coast for a dozen years now. Back in his home country, Samite found himself influenced by American folk and fusion, in addition to a strong link to traditional Ugandan music. He fled his country during the reign of terror under Idi Amin, and recently returned to make the PBS documentary, “Song of the Refugee: A Message of Hope.” He knew the topic well.

Samite is a gentler soul by nature than someone like the more dynamic, groove-driven Keita, with lilting folk qualities tempering his instincts to dive into rhythmic terrain. Eyebrows may have raised when it was reported that he was signed to Windham Hill, but, just as that label has put out plenty of good stuff to counteract its reputation as an incubator for mushy new agers, Samite has found a way to blend his African roots with a pleasing palette of sounds that ease into the Windham Hill esthetic on Stars to Share. Guests include label regulars like Hill-founder Will Ackerman, guitarist Jeff Pevar, pianist Phil Aaberg, and bassist Michael Manring. Samite’s sweet, soaring voice and kalimba parts fit nicely over the arrangements, and Patti Cathcart adds some nice vocal touches on the side.

Still, we keep straining to hear more of his African roots to break through the too-predominantly American folk textures and parts. As pleasantly as it brushes past our ears, the project runs the risk of incurring the “Lion King” syndrome, in which African elements are tucked safely into stateside cliches, made palatable within softcore Yankee parameters, instead of being allowed

to flourish on their own terms.

Originally Published