We like to think ourselves on top of Scandi-pop in general (given that we have at least two posts a week devoted to it), so it came as a surprise to learn of the existence of Norway’s Samsaya, who has been making music in her home country for years. Add to that the fact that her real name is Sampda Sharma, making her a fellow Asian sub-continent homeslice, and we’re even more excited. Two of our favourite things, together at last.
But bias doesn’t even need to figure into a review of Bombay Calling, which quite rightly gets an international release this month. Full of radio-ready pop bangers, it would be hugely unfair if this didn’t make a dent in the usual pop circles. Samsaya is right to kick things off with a track called Khusboo (meaning ‘fragrance’ in Hindi), as this is a relentless gust of freshness the moment it starts.
Take the lead single Stereotype, where Sharma nails cross-culture expectations and sings “I’m not down with the stereotype/ I just dance to whatever I like” to one of the biggest singalong choruses of the year. She follows this with the pulsing title track, and then the impeccably-produced guitar-backed Good With The Bad which feels like it could demolish a chart in record time. Elsewhere, she plays to the heritage with the subtle Hindi film strings on U & Me and deftly incorporating Bollywood on closing ballad My Mind.
We weren’t honestly expecting this album to be this good. Hell, we sort of expected a Preeya Kalidas sort of blunder, or a Jai Ho level of cringey pandering, but not an album that could rival any of her Scandinavian counterparts for quality. If Samsaya can get past those unfair brown-girl preconceptions, she’s set to be a massive star for anyone who loves immaculate pop. And origins aside, is there anyone out there who can produce bangers the size of Breaking Bad or First Time after a string of already-massive songs? Let’s just say we’ll be sticking with this until you can find us someone else that can. Might be a while.
Bombay Calling by Samsaya can be ordered here.