Gigi Shibabaw: Gigi

The debut album by Ethiopian singer Gigi Shibabaw is called, simply, Gigi. It’s a name to remember, and one that may well rise in the ranks of new African vocalists worth hearing. Purists may not be thrilled with the debut, on which African elements mix easily with aspects of reggae and R&B. Really, though, producer Bill Laswell does a fine job navigating the matrices of this music, making sure to base the aesthetics in African sensibility. But wait, isn’t that Wayne Shorter’s elliptical sax in the mix? Yes, it is, along with contributions from Herbie Hancock and Pharoah Sanders. But up front and center is Shibabaw, a singer blessed with fortitude and subtlety. While singing in her native Amharic, Shibabaw, still strikes an empathetic chord on a purely musical basis, transcending language. She travels on the universal tongue of song and the aura of controlled passion.