Africa's queen of world/rock crossover working with the legendary Tony Visconti!
Garth Cartwright 2007
Born in the West African state of Benin, Angelique Kidjo is one of the few African female singers to have won a wide Western audience, having been based in Paris (and now New York) since the early 1990s. Kidjo’s has a proven ability to blend up-tempo African music with rock: she regularly performs Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” in concert and recorded John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” for the Instant Karma Amnesty International album to raise funds and awareness for Darfur. This talent comes to fruitition on Djin Djin (apparently the sound of African bells welcoming the new day), where she mixes upbeat Afro flavours with a strong Western rock feel.
To help Kidjo achieve this, there’s producer Tony Visconti – yes, the man who oversaw the most famous recordings of David Bowie and Marc Bolan! Visconti appears at first an odd choice but listening to Djin Djin it proves to be inspired: the West African element is strong, never subsumed by pop/rock, but at the same time this is an African album many who have never before enjoyed African music might appreciate. To help win those new listeners, Kidjo is joined by many famous pop musicians – Peter Gabriel, Joss Stone, Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis – as well as Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and Mali’s Amadou & Mariam.
Kidjo’s take on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” brings in a funky hi-life feel to an ominous song that surely now reflects on Darfur while “Pearls” finds Kidjo duetting with Josh Groban in an overly lush ballad about refugees. But Kidjo’s at her best when working without famous friends and Vixconti’s clean, unfussy production makes numbers such as “Papa” and “Ae Ae” sparkle.