Once upon a time, there was a first-generation British girl from Zimbabwe. Her family had moved over to an ordinary part of South London when she was a toddler. She went through life feeling different, out-of-place, someone other. When she grew up, she thought she couldn't have kids; last year, she became mother to a daughter that arrived three months early, and was small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. Baby Wonder is six months old now, and her mother, Eska, is back at work. With Mercury Prize 'Albums of the Year' 2015 under her belt it's going to be a big year for both of them.
But Eska's story is much bigger than that. Once upon a time, she was also a girl whose parents became a primary school teacher and a midwife. She took violin lessons in school, and was so good she got a scholarship to a local conservatoire. Her talents for singing, arranging and writing got well-known in the industry; she left it to work on her own rich, warm, ambitious, genre-hopping music. Close your eyes and it sounds like it was beamed down from the more lavish days of the '70s; it's not retro, but adventurous, experimenting with structures and lyrics, big ideas and sounds, like many popular female musicians did then, like her heroes Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. And then comes a voice to stop time...characterful, keening, intimate, extraordinary. This is all Eska too.
There are debut albums that shudder, jump, crackle, and flame from the speakers, that are the products of a mind, heart, and talent that has something – that has everything – to say. Eska's ESKA, her first shot into the world, is one of them.