Words by Jane Cornwell
Franco-Moroccan Bright Young Hope is back
For a while, Hindi Zahra was the next big thing. Her acclaimed 2010 debut album Handmade saw the Berber singer-songwriter hyped as a kind of Maghreb Janis Joplin; there were earworm singles like ‘Stand Up’, an extensive 400-date world tour and then… nothing. But now Zahra is back with Homeland, recorded in a studio in Paris, a riad in Essaouira and in Cordoba with Gypsy musicians. A sort of aural diary, an artwork clearly crafted with love, the album’s 11 songs each offer a snapshot. Opener ‘To the Forces’ is a hypnotic ode to the people of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, and is lent added potency by Touareg guitarist Bombino. The seductive ‘La Luna’ travels from Cuba to Mali; ‘Can We Dance’ trips through Latin America; while the French-language ‘Un Jour’ tells of love found and lost in Paris. Keyboards, guitars and drums – with percussion by Zé Luis Nascimento – lay the foundation over which Zahra’s deceptively delicate voice dips and soars. Lovely.