Album Review: Blick Bassy – 1958

Cameroonian singer-songwriter Blick Bassy may already be known to you in another guise. Back in 2015 one of his songs, Kiki was picked up and used in the global add campaign for the iPhone6. This popular advert caused a lot of people to buy iPhones but it also gave notice to a talented young man with a guitar. Even if you don’t remember hearing his work at the time, now is certainly the time to do it as Bassy releases his latest album 1958.

1958 is a hauntingly beautiful album that snatches your breath away from you. It situates itself somewhere between gentle blues, world music and contemporary folk. The result of such a combination is a collection of mesmerizingly beautiful songs that focus on Bassy’s soulful, sonorous voice; a voice that is gently elevated by subtle guitar riffs, soft piano melodies and sombre trombones. The result is that the whole of 1958 sounds almost understated but that’s not quite true. Instead it feels as though Bassy is focussing your senses, channelling them and training them to hear the spaces between the notes. It focusses almost all of your attention on his stunning voice and yet you find that you can feel the most subtle of changes in his accompanying music before you hear it.

Performing 1958 entirely in his native Bassa, one of 260 different Cameroonian languages, Bassy stays true to his roots and draws on both his childhood and his heritage. As one of 21 children Bassy clearly found music and singing as his way to differentiate himself and stand out. Having begun his singing career at the age of three when he would rise early each day to join the other local children to sing with them it is understandable how over the years he has honed such a charming, beautiful and inimitable voice. Sometimes you can hear the power and passion creaking behind his vocal chords while other songs like Lipém seem to have a softer, kinder side to them. His voice comes out as little more than a whisper, but a powerful whisper at that and his voice seems to creep out into the world like a breath in a cold dawn. Evocative at times of Sigur Ros, Bassy has a tendancy to produce subtle and powerfully sentimental work that feels immeasurably personal and immensely uplifting.

1958 is a truly remarkable and breath-takingly beautiful album. Without any understanding of the Bassa language you might not recognise the lyrics but there is something within his tender production of these songs that lets you understand the sentiments behind them. This is the kind of work that breaks down barriers and proves that you don’t need to understand what someone is saying when you can feel it instead.

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Review by Joe Knipe

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