Dira - Something About the Girl

Dira
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One thing that can be said about Jean Paul "Bluey" Maunick is that he knows talent. Scores of talented vocalists and musicians have performed with Incognito, Bluey's best-known group. They include more than a few great female singers such as Jocelyn Brown and most notably Maysa Leak. Leak and Brown have the kind of biographies that are instantly familiar to soul music lovers. Brown is from North Carolina and Leak is from Baltimore, and both spent time singing in their local communities before embarking on careers as backup vocalists and eventually lead singers.

Indonesian born Dira J. Sugandi doesn't have that familiar American story of deciding to become singer after experiencing musical theater, which is what inspired Leak. The fact that Dira and Bluey create some high quality R&B on Something About The Girl, Dira's new album on Expansion Records, says something about the universal appeal of soul music.

One thing that can be said about Jean Paul "Bluey" Maunick is that he knows talent. Scores of talented vocalists and musicians have performed with Incognito, Bluey's best-known group. They include more than a few great female singers such as Jocelyn Brown and most notably Maysa Leak. Leak and Brown have the kind of biographies that are instantly familiar to soul music lovers. Brown is from North Carolina and Leak is from Baltimore, and both spent time singing in their local communities before embarking on careers as backup vocalists and eventually lead singers.

Indonesian born Dira J. Sugandi doesn't have that familiar American story of deciding to become singer after experiencing musical theater, which is what inspired Leak. The fact that Dira and Bluey create some high quality R&B on Something About The Girl, Dira's new album on Expansion Records, says something about the universal appeal of soul music.

Dira is a classically trained singer who also loves the music of Incognito. Bluey told a reporter that Dira told him that her dream was to sing with Incognito. He got a demo, and was impressed, but told the teen to finish high school. Dira finished school, but she remained in touch with the band.  Dira would attend Incognito shows - singing along and dancing in the front row. Every now and then, she'd get invited on stage to sing along. That was the case during a 2001 show in Bandung, when the then 21 year old Dira J. Sugandi performed the song "Still A Friend Of Mine."

Nine years later, the 30-year-old Dira displays the kind of maturity on Something About The Girl that fans heard from Leak, Brown and other singers.

Longtime Incognito fans know Bluey puts singers through a workout. One minute they may be singing up-tempo dance tunes. The next, Bluey will have them doing a funky jam, and then jazzy mid-tempo tunes and then soulful ballads. Dira handles them all with ease.

The songs on Something About The Girl showcase the democracy between singer, musicianship and lyrics at their best. Take the dance track "No More Tears," which is the last song on the album. This song rips to shreds the belief that the lyrics come in a distant second to the music on dance song. Like on any good dance track, the hook on "No More Tears" is memorable. However, the lyrics more than match up to the beat and the hook, and Dira delivers those lyrics in a conversational style that is totally in sync with the song's pulsating, rhythmic beat.

There are no low points on Something About The Girl, but standout songs include the torchy ballad "Hand On Your Heart," the funky jam "Get Through To You," the neo-soul mid-tempo track "Loving A Stranger" and the soulful "Time Out Of Time." Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

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