Singer ESKA‘s family moved from Zimbabwe to South London when she was a small girl. Her father played a lot of records at home, like Bob James, the Crusaders, or Quincy Jones. When she started her singing career, she never had to look for a job; people always came to her. She sang with Grace Jones or the Cinematic Orchestra.
On her debut album, you’ll find folk elements as well as rock, soul, jazz, psychedelia, and lots more. The album opens beautifully and sensually with “This Is How A Garden Grows”, produced by Matthew Herbert and continues with a track that becomes pretty annoying in the process: “Gatekeeper” to me is simply a forgettable song. Other producers on the album are Louis Hackett and Dave Okumu. ESKA‘s strangely quivering voice, which sometimes almost seems to tip over (as in “She’s In The Flowers”) is really not easy getting used to.
But there are great moments: “Shades Of Blue” with its effective handclaps, oboe, flute, harmonica, and bassoon, is a thrilling little soul masterpiece. ESKA herself plays a varied assortment of instruments, like the clarinet, harmonium, glockenspiel, percussion, cuatro, grand piano, prepared piano, and more. On the reggae-infused “Heroes & Villains”, she plays the skank organ, typically used in reggae. Another mesmerizing tune. As is the wonderful “To Be Remembered” which boasts some very lovely lyrics.
With the a cappella “Dear Evelyn” and the very sparse and restrained “So Long Eddy” though, she only reinforces her very individual vocal approach which still needs to ignite.
ESKA is on tour: She plays the Jazz & the City Festival in Salzburg on October 22nd, the Liverpool SoulFest on the 23rd, or the Crossing Border Festival in the Hague on November 12th.Follow: