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Listen to These Beautiful Interpretations of Nina Simone

We premiere Ghanaian-American singer ABIAH's upcoming album, ABIAH sings NINA.

ABIAH is an singer-songwriter who's earned leading roles across the New York City Opera and Carnegie Hall for his uniquely captivating voice. The Ghanaian-American artist is now following up 2016's Bottles, which earned him a Billboard Top 100 spot, which his new album, ABIAH sings NINA.

Throughout the new record, which is due May 6, ABIAH presents nine wholly new interpretations of Nina Simone's classic songs. More than just covers, the singer's versions play like new arrivals at the core of Nina's message, giving her compositions new life.


The album follows ABIAH as he covers some of his favorite Nina Simone songs like "Don't Smoke in Bed," "See-line Woman" and "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair."

It also includes a Nina-inspired original song, "I'm Just Like You," which was written after the death of Trayvon Martin. Our favorite might be ABIAH's upbeat cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," which builds on stabbing piano chords and a stuttering beat.

"ABIAH sings NINA is my love letter to Nina Simone," the singer tells OkayAfrica. "What you will hear is the reflection of her artistry through me. She is one of my biggest inspirations and much like Nina, my artistry is an anomaly. I hope new listeners and continued fans will go on this journey with me as reimagined these Masterpieces by the High Priestess of Soul. After 13 years of contemplating this recording, I braved the courage to tribute Nina. With the support of my fans via GoFundMe, we raised majority of the funds to bring this vision to fruition. I present to you... ABIAH sings NINA."

Listen to ABIAH sings NINA in its entirety below and pre-order the album here. CD and vinyl copies will be available here.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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