Amanda Homi
'Till I Reach Bombay
(Drumgirl,   2013)

Johanna B. Bodde

Amanda Homi
'Till I Reach Bombay'

(Drumgirl, 2013)

And now for something different and delicious... Amanda Homi's new album is a celebration of her affinity for music and dance from around the world. She is an energetic singer with a crystal clear voice, songwriter, percussionist and dancer. She is based in New York City now, but she was born in London of English and Indian descent. The daughter of an actress and a physician, Amanda grew up singing as a child and dreaming of travel. She fell in love with languages and began her musical travel adventures at the age of eighteen. She has since studied dance and percussion in Brazil and Senegal, sung Rembetika in Greece, Gypsy Flamenco in Spain, filmed a documentary about singer Toto La Momposina in Colombia, wrote and recorded Reggae in Jamaica and recently performed her music in Agadir with Moroccan musicians.

Amanda Homi's first album 'Drumgirls' was released in 2004. She is also a studio session singer, she has performed and/or recorded with well-known names like Jackson Browne, Ray Lamontagne, Mavis Staples, They Might Be Giants, Grover Washington Jr., Pete Seeger, Toots Thielemans, Jane Siberry, among others. She wrote the theme to the popular TV show 'Bridezillas' and she sang on many national commercials.

The new CD is produced by Graham Hawthorne, who also worked with David Byrne, Paul Simon and Suzanne Vega. Amanda's musical and spiritual travels are deeply explored in this song collection. Her music effortlessly crosses genres: world, roots, classic, funk, folk, pop - as the characters of her songs travel from New York City to Greece, Italy, India, Colombia, Egypt and Spain, not necessarily in that order... As Hans Werksman wrote: "Amanda is like a kid in a candy store, sampling the musical goods and finally deciding she wants it all!" Eye candy is also included for the music lovers: this digipack looks beautiful with pictures of gorgeous Amanda.

The album features Amanda Homi on lead and background vocals. Names mentioned in comparison: Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Sally Oldfield and even Lene Lovich. She also plays zills and harmonium, accompanied by a remarkable cast of musicians and a rich palette of instruments from all over the globe. Graham Hawthorne brings his vast knowledge of world music to the project as the producer
, arranger, drummer and percussionist. Ara Dinkjian (Eleftheria Arvanataki, Sezen Aksu) is featured on oud, cumbus and cura saz, Jon Albrink (guitar and vocals) and Gary Schreiner (keyboards, accordion, harmonicas). Paul Frazier (bass, backing vocals) and Joey Cardello (percussion) round out the rhythm section. Guest musicians include Todd Isler (kanjira), Carlinhos Avaco Almeida (cavaquinho), Megan Gould (violin, baglamas), Robert Muller (tabla), Joy Askew (backing vocals), Guilherme Monteiro and Spiros Exaras (nylon string guitars), John Ragusa, Steve Kenyon and Charles Pillow (flutes and woodwinds).

A pleasant surprise: Eugene Ruffolo, a familiar face in Western Europe after quite a few tours, adds backing vocals and plays the part of the 'cranky old man' in "Ladri Di Biciclette", a song he also co-wrote.

Let's spin the disc...

- "Dancing Girls". After seeing images of women dancing in protest as part of the Arab Spring, Amanda was reminded of a visit to Cairo as a young woman where she heard the wonderful music of Oum Kalthoum, Warda and Fairuz. She co-wrote this song with oud master Ara Dinkjian as an inspiring message for women to peacefully change the world.

- "Samba Feliz". This classy pop-infused song brings a tropical Latin medley to life.

- "Shoes". Yes, an irresistible festive song about Amanda's collection of shoes! With a great role for the cheerful accordion...

- "Lorca's Desire". This song, with its haunting Afro-Peruvian rhythm, captures a time in the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca's life in New York City, 1929. He walks around Manhattan wrestling with his deepest longings and fears. Written from the imagined point of view of Lorca, Amanda Homi begins and ends the track by echoing Lorca's thoughts with a stanza from his poem 'Ditty of First Desire':

"In the green morning
I wanted to be a heart
And in the ripe evening
I wanted to be a nightingale."

- "Till I Reach Bombay". On the title track, set to a Bhangra beat, Amanda tries to heal her broken heart by cycling across the Hudson, through New Jersey over the Atlantic, eventually landing in Bombay (Mumbai), the birthplace of her grandfather. "I realize this was a bit convoluted geographically, but in my head it all made sense", says Amanda.

- "Senseless". A poetic love ballad. "I'm deaf / to the clanging of the warning bells / I'm weak and defenseless / You left me senseless." Beautifully build up by the bass and the oud.

- "Cards Coins & Chaos". A fantastical tune inspired by Emir Kusturica and Tony Gatlif films and by Taref de Haidouks, Goran Bregovic and Greek Gypsy songs. It is filled with colorful characters and the inevitable chaotic wedding scene. Amanda says: "I am a self-proclaimed 'Romabee'! Being fascinated and in love with all things related to Romani or more widely and less politically correctly known as Gypsy culture". The section sung by the Gypsy Chicks was written using translations from one of Amanda's Romani dictionaries. "I hope this is really what it means and that I did not accidentally offend anyone."

- "Kaisariani". Telling the nostalgic tale of Amanda's time spent in Greece as an eighteen year old, living in the historic Athenian neighborhood Kaisariani. Making her living singing in a Bouzouki club at night, she fell in love with Greek music. The song is written as a Zeibekiko, one of the important Rembetiko song forms introduced to Greece by refugees from Asia Minor who had settled in Kaisariani.

- "Danger Be Damned". Despite the title a light-hearted song, again with accordion: "The boys are coming from Astoria / Strike up the band / carnations and a white gardenia."

- "Ladri Di Biciclette". "Bicycle Thieves" is an energetic Pink Martini-esque story song about a chain of loved, lost and / or stolen bicycles, composed in an Italian 'pizzica' style - and of course the title was 'stolen' from the classic Vittorio De Sica film.

- "Una Promesa". The album concludes with this stunning Spanish ballad, co-written by Alex Alexander, adorned by woodwinds, paying tribute to Gabriel García Márquez. A cautionary tale about: "All the tender words we never speak / are the ones that we regret / All the promises we couldn't keep / are the hardest to forget".
Let Amanda take you by the hand for an unforgettable adventure and dance with her around the world!
Written & compiled by Johanna J. Bodde - September 7th, 2014.

Thanks to publicist Bernadette Quigley for the excellent info sheet!