Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo
Black Ivory Soul and More

This is an exciting new release from Angelique Kidjo, exploring Brazilian connections and allowing her voice to find a new, more sensitive space. There is a selection of thoughtless cheese on the album, like her collaboration with Dave Matthews, but there’s enough delight and new energy to hold the whole thing together. Brazil’s superb percussionist and composer Carlinhos Brown is in the mix, so is the subtle guitar of Vinicius Cantuaria and Gilberto Gil’s beautiful Refavela. It’s a rich album, with kora, guitars, acoustic bass, fender rhodes, organ, a string section and wonderful vocal arrangements – and the production by Bill Laswell melds the elements together into a symphony of brooding, sensitive, intelligent pop. He’s worked on a variety of African projects recently, most notably Gigi’s debut international album (on Palm Pictures), which is brilliant. The opening track, Bahia, is stunning, there’s a lovely version of Serge Gainsbourg’s Ces Petits Rien, which reveals a lovely, lilting vocal contrast to the consonant filled, quite gutteral intonation of her first language lyrics. Born in Benin, Angelique Kidjo’s first performing experience was as a six year old actor-dancer in her mother’s theatre troupe. From that point on, music became her sole passion. As a teenager, Kidjo was inspired to write songs by the sounds of Hendrix, Santana, Miriam Makeba, James Brown, Fela Kuti, the Beatles, and Aretha Franklin; before her twentieth birthday she was one of Benin’s few professional female vocalists.

Difficulties with the political environment in her homeland prompted Kidjo to relocate to Paris. Thriving in the city’s African music underground, she progressed from singer of Jasper Van Hof’s fusion band Pili Pili, to leader of her own band within five years. Established as one of Paris’s top live acts, Kidjo was quickly discovered by Chris Blackwell and signed to Mango.

Today, Angelique Kidjo is a bonafide phenomenon whose performances are always legendary events.

My style of music varies from afro-funk, reggae, samba, salsa, gospel, jazz, zairean rumba, souk and makossa which combined together creates her soulful unique sound of music. In all the years since I first began singing, I’ve never performed a song that I didn’t love. Each one feels like a baby of mine; it has its fragility and its strength, and I will never forget it because it’s a part of me. But as with everything you truly love, you have to let it out into the wild!

Singing, and especially signing for an audience, has been such an ecstatic and intense pleasure for me. it’s my hope that you’ll share this deep experience while listening to these tracks. EAch one of them brings back memories from very different parts of my life. Malaika, for instance, reminds me of my first concerts in Benin, and my passion for Miriam Makeba, who was my role model.

A lot of these songs take me back to the places and the circumstances of their writing, and to the people who believed in me, especially my family in Africa, for whom, along with my soulmate Jean, music has always been a “family thing.” And I will never forget the fans everywhere in the world who came to the shows, and the producers and many musicians who shared their good advice and played so masterfully.

Most of all, this music makes me feel closer to wht has been my main influence: the traditional music from my country Benin and its regoin. Music is not only emotion and groove, it’s something that speaks for a culture and its people. I hope that when you listen to this very diverse material, where the influence of many styles and other artists can be found, that you will hear a voice of the continent that I am so proud to come from: AFRICA.”

-Angelique Kidjo

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