Album Title: Song of Songs
Performer: Inbar Bakal
Label: Electrophone Records
Play Time:
Recorded: 2009

Inbar Bakal's kabbalistic grandfather foresaw her career as a singer in the stars. Being the first female army draftee to become an Israeli officer in the anti-aircraft combat division might have suggested otherwise. Still, Inbar decided against the military and left for Los Angeles with two suitcases to pursue her muse. Meeting producer Carmen Rizzo who had worked with Seal and co-founded Niyaz with Azam Ali segued into Song of Songs, an electronically enhanced take on traditional Yemenite Jewish songs.

Not endowed with the powerful pipes of the late Ofra Haza or the fiery Yasmin Levy (the latter focused on the Sephardic repertoire her father collected), the mastering engineer and producer for Inbar's debut album decided to enfold her voice in trans-Mediterranean but overproduced ambiance similar to Irina Mikhailova's treatment in Lumin. Rather than highlight voice and lyrics, both are recessed and distanced. That's a pity. One senses real potential and a rising new star on the neo-Yemenite scene. But Song of Songs is more promise than final delivery and at that, a presumptuous title.

At less than thirty minutes and just six tracks, it's also strangely brief for what is marketed as a breakout album. Just think of Sevara Nazarkhan and what Hector Zazou could have done here had he lived longer. Still, every journey starts with the first step. Clearly Inbar Bakal is rather further along already and should be watched closely. The premature departure of Ofra Haza left a vacuum. Inbar Bakal has the requisite Iraqi/Yemenite background to step in and extend further bridges between Arab and Western worlds. Here's to hoping that her collaborators will properly focus on their headline star next. If traditional songs are on the menu, don't suffocate them in electronic ambiance with the occasional oud riff. Strip back all window dressing so we can properly enjoy the deliverer of the message, Inbar Bakal.