The first thing listeners will ask themselves when attempting to buy Karma's latest release and first full-length album, Don't Walk, Fly, is: What the hell is 120.00R in good ol' American greenbacks? It's just another one of the ways the band's leader, South African pop star Karma-Ann Swanepoel, subtly reminds fans she's not from around here. Swanepoel became an overnight success across the pond with her previous group, Henry Ate, which disbanded after experiencing creative differences with EMI South Africa, so she decided to relocate to South Florida and start from scratch. That was a bold move from an artist used to signing autographs. Undeterred, she formed a new band with locals Daniel de la Fe on drums and Stephen Calderalo on bass, and South African Christiaan Wood on guitar.
The outcome of that gamble depends on the twelve tracks of Don't Walk, Fly. Right away long-time fans will notice a technical proficiency not present in any of her other works. What takes a deeper listening to recognize are the personal and vulnerable lyrics of a girl very far from home. "Boarded desire to be closer to you/Now 15,000 miles of sky/Separates this life from one I knew/To be truthful I can't get a grip/There's something about this Jo'burg child/That doesn't seem to fit," writes Swanepoel in the song "0 Miles."
All in all, the album captures the essence of a scary new beginning without straying too much from the Cranberries-like vocals and melodies that endeared Swanepoel to her fans in the first place. Released on her independent label, AMP (Ate Music Productions), the disc is poised to pick up where another South African native, Dave Matthews, left off. With a huge grassroots following, Karma could become the next indie act to make it to the big time.
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