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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Kiwomera Emmeeme

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
Kiwomera Emmeeme
Sounds like … Christine Dente (Out of the Grey), Louise Fellingham (Phatfish), or Ledisi singing in Lugandan to Africanized pop and R&BAt a glance … Omega's pretty voice and pleasant blend of jazz, pop, and Africana add up to an enjoyable listen, even though most in the U.S. won't understand what she's singing about without reading the translated lyricsTrack Listing Kiwomera Emmeeme (It Is Sweet to the Soul) Mujje (An Invitation) Yaye (Mourning) Ndituusa Wa? (How Long?) Gunyma (Love Is a Wonderful Thing) Gwe Wangamba (You Said) Zibasanze (Woe) Tugilabilile (Let's Take Care of the Earth) Amazima (Truth) Utama Wa Mapenzi (Love Expressed in Swahili) He Won't Leave You

As an independent artist originally from Uganda, Omega Bugembe Okello is recording world music sung primarily in her native tongue. You'd think interest in her music would be rather limited because of that, yet she's finding some impressive promotion across America. Not only is her third album, Kiwomera Emmeeme (Lugandan for It Is Sweet to the Soul) finding distribution through Amazon, Wal-mart, Best Buy, and Circuit City, but she's also a featured artist at Borders, Starbucks, and Lufthansa airlines, as well as various spas and wineries.

Omega sang with the world-renowned African Children's Choir at the age of four (half the age of most members), and was raised a Christian at the orphanage her mother operates. That upbringing kindled her sense of social concern, so she moved to the U.S. at 16 to study biology and health advocacy. But Omega ultimately turned to music as the avenue through which she wanted to give back to society and serve others, eventually becoming a full-time singer in 2006.

This album offers plenty of ethnic rhythms and sounds, yet to Omega's credit, she never settles for the typical Africanized pop clichés (e.g The Lion King). Instead, the music ranges from easy listening ("Gunyuma") to jazz-inflected R&B ("Love Expressed in Swahili"), sometimes polished ("Mujje") and sometimes scaled down to acoustic simplicity ("Ndituusa Wa?"). But the real draw is Omega's pretty voice, as clear and confident as an experienced jazz singer.

Pleasant and authentic as it all is, the language barrier will be a major drawback for the average American listener. At least Omega provides lyrics in both Lugandan and English, allowing listeners to understand her and see how faith inspires her songwriting (including the environmentally conscious "Let's Take Care of the Earth"). And the songstress does perform in English for the bonus track, "He Won't Leave You," an African flavored gospel-pop radio single produced by Warryn Campbell (Mary Mary).

It's enough to make me long for Omega to release an African-English hybrid that's more accessible to the U.S. market at large while still remaining true to her musical roots. But then there's something to be said for a Christian album geared specifically to the African market. Language barrier and the viability of world music styling aside, Christian listeners can't help but be inspired and impressed by Omega's uncompromising expression of faith and mission.

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