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Angelique Kidjo's first recording in 1980 was an inauspicious beginning to what would become a stellar musical career. She recorded Pretty for release in Africa, but the co-producer absconded with the master tapes, claimed authorship of the songs, and never paid Kidjo a penny.
Fast forward to 2004's Oyaya (Joy), which found Kidjo at the top of her game as the third in a series of albums exploring the diaspora of African music. Following Oremi's focus on African music in the USA, and Black Ivory Soul's Brazilian flavor, Oyaya explored the roots and branches of Caribbean music.
Now Kidjo returns with an album of sparkling Afropop that features a host of guest musicians, including Alicia Keys and Branford Marsalis on the title track, Joss Stone on "Gimme Shelter" (yes, the Stones song), Carlos Santana and Josh Groban on the poignant ballad "Pearls," and Ziggy Marley on "Sedjedo."
Speaking of Groban, Kidjo is currently on tour opening for him (right now they're on their way to North Carolina). Groban, though labeled by the New York Times as "Oprah Winfrey’s pet balladeer," is no stranger to African music, having also recorded with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
So can Kidjo find new fans in the legious of Grobanites? Who knows. What I can say for certain is that Djin Djin does not disappoint, providing not only Kidjo's trademark powerful vocals, but also a fair amount of probing into new territory. You've got the guest artists, the Stones cover, and the album's bold final track: a Kidjo-arranged version of Ravel's Bolero, entitled "Lonlon."
Okay so a little preview for you, since you have to wait until May 1 for the album's official release. This song features the blind Malian blues duo Amadou and Mariam. It's pretty clear that Kidjo could sing circles around Mariam, but the deft arrangement puts their voices in a nice balance along with Amadou's guitar work.
[mp3] Angelique Kidjo: "
from Djin Djin
Oh, and if you're feeling interactive, you can download and remix the track "Salala" (featuring Peter Gabriel) at realworldremixed.com