Since 2001, Montreal-based Chadian ensemble H’SAO has been capturing the hearts of audiences large and small with its unique blend of contemporary urban sounds (gospel, soul, R&B and reggae) and traditional African influences. H’SAO has traveled the world – from the Brisbane Festival (Australia) to WOMAD (New Zealand) – delivering electrifying performances, launching three innovative albums and, most of all, developing a musical signature that spans several genres and thus transcends the “world music” category.
At first, voices were H’SAO’s sole mode of expression. Then, brothers Caleb (guitar), Mossbass (bass) and Izra L (keyboard), along with their childhood friend Dono (drums), added instruments to their rich and inspired compositions. But whether its style is labeled Afro-fusion or Afro-jazz, the ensemble is defined by the strength of its voices and vocal harmonies (singing in French, English and Arabic, plus the Chadian languages of sara and kabalaye), its rhythms, and its authenticity. On stage, the band sets itself apart through energetic performances, punctuated by catchy choreography and warm interactions with the audience.“Like swallows, we wanted to reach the highest mountain,” says Izra, the youngest member of H’SAO.
Ten years after the release of its self-titled debut album, and four years after its second CD, Vol 235, the band launched Oria (meaning, “Are you fed up yet?”). Nominated for 2013 World Music Album of the Year at the Gala de l’ADISQ, Oria is an invitation to rediscover the boundless vocal talent of H’SAO and to experience a more subdued, masterful and varied instrumental universe. Its biting and poignant songs address peace, social justice, religion, love and other universal themes.“There’s a lot of injustice in Africa,” says Izra. “So, for us, it’s our role to sing and denounce that. Oria is about calling people to fight for their freedom, to protest, but peacefully.”