Abiah is a lover of love. If you are a fan of his music, that statement is as simple as acknowledging that he is Black. It really is in the fabric of who he is musically and what he offers his audience.
I was introduced to his work in 2013 after seeing an interview with the classically trained singer and his wife on the web series i of Africa. Even then, his music was an exposition on love and all its many sharp corners and crevices. He was a lover of love who sang about love; more specifically, one assumes he sang of the love of his muse, wife and endearingly charismatic actress, MaameYaa Boafo.
When I was told he would be doing Nina Simone covers on his new album, Abiah Sings Nina Simone, I had to listen, if only to see if the urgent anger and depth that was a signature of some of Simone’s most well-known songs would somehow jar Abiah out of his examination of love. Abiah’s cover album, however, takes on Ms. Simone’s love songs. And I am surprised to say that this concept made the album even more inviting.
Abiah has been thinking about doing this particular concept for 12 years with a stint as a vocal producer on the award-winning documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? to push him to commit to making the album. He is more than capable of mimicking the High Priestess of Soul’s inflections and tone because the two naturally sound alike. But rather than lean into this similarity, he attempts to make her words and his experience as an artist merge.
By approaching Simone’s work from a vantage point that Abiah is a love expert, this cover album moves away from a work of imitation and becomes a reflection of canonical Simone work that offers new colors and dimensions. He doesn’t follow the recipe; rather, he pays true homage to it. This album is definitely worth a listen, and if you are able to catch Abiah on tour, please do. His engaging performance will add even more to the experience of a great cover album.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.