Dawn – Volume 1
By Bob Marovich
Howard Ziwa’s Dawn—I’m tempted to call it an EP because it has eight tracks and weighs in at under thirty minutes—has its high points and low points.
Let’s start with the high points. The EP’s finest selections, “Alele” and “Let It Be,” are fueled by the brisk polyrhythms, vertical praise lyrics, and instrumental sensibilities of the gospel music from Ziwa’s native Africa (he was born in Kampala, Uganda). Those familiar with African gospel music know that it is often ignited by insistent drums and an ostinato riff on keyboard or guitar. It works best in the case of the thumping “Alele” (or Hallelujah) and also on the guitar-led “Let It Be,” an infectious piece that limns the phrase “thy will be done” from the Lord’s Prayer.
An uncredited female singer shines on “Dear Lord,” a hip hop prayer/conversation about how the love of the Lord can eradicate a life lived under a false identity. Ziwa’s conversational singing style is consistent with much of African gospel music, where flowers and frills are not nearly as popular as they are among U.S. gospel singers, though he demonstrates a fine falsetto on “I Am.”
The album misses the mark on two selections that on their surface appear to have nothing to do with religious music. These are the opening “Fire,” which features wordless scatting, and “Break This Down,” which seems like straight-ahead EDM. “Nameless” contains an electronic buzz that becomes so bothersome it is a relief when it stops.
Howard Ziwa is a young man with a college education in music, so I suspect he will only progress with time. His ability to intentionally blend American and African gospel music could result in a really dynamic and exciting sound.
Two of Five Stars
Pick: “Let It Be.”