Yana Mangi is a Swedish singer whose heritage goes back to the Sami people from Lapland. It's a heritage that shines through in this pleasant debut CD, Earth Shadow. The album is a mix of (what I am assuming are) traditional, folk melodies and rhythms with more modern elements from the world of popular music.
In general, the mix of traditional and modern works well. To me, it often sounds as if Yana chants rather than singing lyrics, but this may be because I don't know the Sami language. On some of the crossover songs other vocalists are brought in to sing in English, either alongside the chanting or on their own. Yana has an attractive, lush, almost sultry vocal tone; the singing, if I can call it that, is one of the album's major attractions. The other is the mantric nature of the rhythms employed, which always give this music a very primal appeal: depending on the arrangement the songs can then sound anything from rocky to dance/club.
Earth Shadow starts excellently with "Sökare" and "Say You Will", probably the two strongest tracks. "Sökare" introduces the traditional folk element via Yana's vocal, turning to a chant, backed with a strong beat of mantric tom-tom drums, spiced with some synthesizer background. "Say You Will" replaces the synthesizers with guitars and the rhythm is very danceable.
The quality then takes a dip: "The Sun" is a standard folk/pop song sung in English; the melody's OK but it's so different to the opening that it sits a bit awkwardly; perhaps it's to introduce the fusion of the two styles, which comes along in "Nåjden". Here, English lyrics in a song are merged with the traditional element of the chanting; it's more successful than the straight folk/pop song, but less so than the opening numbers.
Other than "The Sun", the other two numbers to stand a little awry within the album's flow are "Walking Song", a straight ballad, and the closing "Promises", which features Yana singing, with very little accompaniment and no rhythmic instruments, in English; it sounds like a prayer or an homage to a god/spirit.
Of the traditional/fusion numbers, other highlights are "Altajärvi", which is a great shindig with its pacey fiddle/violin lines; "Haukivaara", which features a fine guitar solo; and "Nyojk", which has quite a rocky arrangement.
Overall, this is a pleasant album whose flaws are insufficient to spoil the overall enjoyment. Yana comes across as a sort of Swedish Enya, and if you are a fan of that lady's brand of Irish traditional crossover music, then you may well enjoy Yana Mangi's debut album.
2) Say You Will
3) The Sun
9) Walking Song