South African soul singer hopes to make a splash in the U.S.

The South African singer has been compared to Erykah Badu.  Credit: Cassandra Goins The South African singer has been compared to Erykah Badu.
Credit: Cassandra Goins

It’s best not to call the upcoming album by South African soul singer Simphiwe Dana a cover album.

“I would rather call it a reinterpretation of the songs or a reimagining of those songs,” says Dana of the album, of which the release date and label have not been announced. “Because they do not sound like how you know them, they’re sung in my own way.”

Dana, who performs Wednesday at World Cafe Live, has recorded tracks by American and African artists ranging from Ray Charles to Letta Mbulu in Los Angeles with producer Om’Mas Keith, perhaps best known for his Grammy-winning work with Frank Ocean.

“He loves the rawness of my voice, he finds that quite intriguing,” Dana says.

So does much of the world. Dana burst on the Afro-soul scene with her 2005 debut, “Zandisile.” The work heralded the arrival of a sparkling talent whose luxurious phrasing made her a star on multiple continents.

She’s been called the Erykah Badu of South Africa. Now, she’s setting her sights on the U.S. Her stateside debut was at this year’s Essence Festival in New Orleans last week.

Politicians beware: Dana is a vocal critic of the South African political scene and she has her eye on U.S. polls, beginning with President Obama.

“The Palestinians are not happy with him, and he basically has a concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay,” Dana says. “What’s going on there is basically against human rights.”

As for her World Cafe Live show, she plans to make an impact. “I’m hoping audiences will be impressed enough so that the promoters will take notice and bring me back,” says Dana, who hopes to meet Philly’s Jill Scott while here. “I’m hoping I’ll be more or less a regular feature in the U.S. from now on.”

Simphiwe Dana
July 10, 8 p.m.
World Cafe Live Upstairs
3025 Walnut St.
$20, 215-222-1400
www.worldcafelive.com

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