Margeaux Watson
January 06, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EST

Years ago, I became enchanted with Jeni Fujita after seeing her perform at an underground soul music showcase in NYC. She stole the show by singing Japanese lyrics over a seductive reggae beat. Wyclef, Lauryn Hill, and the recently pardoned John Forte (welcome home, sir!) were also fans of her distinctive voice, and they all tapped her to sing background vocals on their albums. After touring as a backup singer for Pink in 2002, Jeni, who earned a Grammy nod for contributing vocals to Wyclef’s 1997 hit “Guantanamera,” seemed poised for major label success. That never happened. (She inked a deal with Sony but was prematurely dropped from the label, along with Alicia Keys and 50 Cent, before putting out an album.) But after years of paying her dues, I was thrilled to hear from her yesterday when she emailed me to let me know that her independently released solo debut CD, This Little Light of Mine, is now available on I just copped it and I strongly encourage you to do the same. It’s a pretty, romantic, and soothing collection of 11 ballads and grooves that evokes a mix of Jill Scott, Amel Larrieux, and Floetry. A couple of the songs are a little too spoken-wordy for my taste, but highlights such as “For John Forte,” “Love Haze,” and a reggae-inspired cover of “Summertime” are delightful treasures.

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