(Triloka/Artemis, 2005)

Embalasasa is Samite's ninth album. It is also the name of a colorful but poisonous lizard, which Samite uses in the title track to represent AIDS, a huge problem for his native country of Uganda.

His music is about as far from poisonous as you can get, however. Samite's music, like much of Africa's, remains positive despite all of the continent's problems.

The best tracks are those where he enhances his vocals with his flute and kalimba (thumb piano). These are the most representative of his lively and upbeat sound. A few times, he is only backed by guitar and/or piano and a bit of percussion, but these songs tilt a bit towards new age and are less distinctive. Samite fills all of the CD's 10 tracks with feeling, however. He wrote all 10 (one was co-written).

He tells the story behind each of them on the CD sleeve. Some are based on folk tales. Another example is "We Can Do Better," about how children "do not use the difference in skin color to decide who their enemies are." A lesser performer would make this song seem like a platitude, but Samite's gentle delivery makes it believable.

Samite orients his music a bit to the ears of Westerners, but without giving up his unique style. Embalasasa is a good introduction to one of Africa's most appealing musicians.

by Dave Howell
10 February 2007

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