I’d like to give some credit to Sufjan Stevens’ home label Asthmatic Kitty for expanding its sonic palate lately, what with signings like Rafter and Fol Chen. Perhaps the most interesting addition to the label’s roster is Hermas Zopoula, a singer/songwriter from Burkina Faso. He is the youngest of 36 (!) children and works as a translator at the Ouagadougou international airport.
His debut Espoir / Live in Ouagadougou is a double album; the first section, Espoir, was recorded in a government-run studio (wish we had those here!), and it’s lower-budget Afropop that recalls Lucky Dube, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and, in particular, Salif Keita. It’s pretty good stuff in the West African vein with a healthy touch of reggae (as well as some questionable synth choices). It seems like Zopoula has a lot of growth ahead of him.
But for my money Live in Ouagadougou is the real winner here. It’s just Zopoula and his guitar, and in this setting his songs have room to breathe. The accompanying videos that Asthmatic Kitty shot are just fabulous. Shot La Blogotheque-style (without the indie-rock preening), they are as much fascinating glimpses into Burkinabe life as they are documents of Zopoula’s warm, endearing music. Above is the video for “Dsa Wissi Dounia Gnou,” recorded in Zopoula’s backyard under a tree with birds chirping and the sounds of a city behind them.
Hermas Zopoula [Asthmatic Kitty]