Album Review: Saâda Bonaire – Saâda Bonaire

Saâda Bonaire is the fantastic disco/world music project duo out of Bremen, Germany that was never meant to be,” claims Captured Tracks. While this reissue of dub and synth tunes isn’t the usual fare for the shoegaze/dream pop label, the tracks are reminiscent of Captured Track’s nostalgic sound through a feeling of the global disco past, yet somehow they still remain futuristic despite their ’80s production date.

Formed in 1982, Saâda Bonaire is, at its core, composed of DJ Ralf Behrendt, Stefanie Lange, and Claudia Hossfeld. In addition to Behrendt’s drum machines and synthesizers, Lange and Hossfeld’s airy, stifling vocals are accompanied by jazzy Middle Eastern and African instruments and local German musicians to produce a heavily eclectic sound. The record’s cover suggests the trio were subtly drawn to Middle Eastern sound and culture, as two individuals (presumably Lange and Hossfeld) stand dressed in hijabs, with “ساعدبنير” (“Saâda Bonaire”) written underneath. Beyond purely aesthetic value, there’s no indication as to why exactly the women may have been drawn to this particular culture. This blank curiosity can come across as either offensive (culture appropriation) or endearing (worldly), but, moreover, what should enlighten us on Lange and Hossfeld’s musical mindset (namely, what the women are singing about in those seductive voices) doesn’t prove to be very helpful.

Due to severe budget malfunction and post-finance failure fallout, the group’s first and (rightfully) only single, “You Could Be More as You Are”, is all of what was really heard from Saâda Bonaire until now. The song, also the first on the album, was produced in Kraftwerk’s studio, and its amalgamation of groovy bass, multiform synths, and guttural iterations of “You could be more as you are/ Can’t you see/ You could be anything/ You could be free” makes for a uniquely sweet disco dance.

The following track, “Invitation”, builds on that strength, epitomizing what makes Saâda Bonaire enticing: They succeed most when beckoning the listener to join in on the freeing, inquisitive exploration. The upbeat “I Am So Curious” makes for Saâda Bonaire’s strongest, the precise nature and target of the curiosity up for interpretation, the accompanying sounds evoking dance moves and anxiety attacks in equal measure.

Saâda Bonaire’s 13 tracks were recorded nearly 30 years ago. Where are Ralf Behrendt, Stefanie Lange, and Claudia Hossfeld now? Why did they so abruptly end the pursuit of their music career? These mysterious questions, in addition to the album’s textured sexiness, make for an enjoyable listen and body-moving experience.

Essential Tracks: “You Could Be More as You Are”, “Invitation”, and “I Am So Curious”


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