Benin Bop


Angelique Kidjo
Mango records through Polygram
Available on CD and cassette
Reviewed by Deb Sorensen

I must admit I'd never heard of Angelique Kidjo until I switched my clock-radio over to JJJ. Then I started hearing this really groovy song called Wé-wé — probably the best known track on her latest album Logozo. Now I'm a fan!

The album makes great listening. If you're into classifications, it has been described as "a meeting of African drive (in staccato guitars and percussion) and melodic sensibility (in the interplay of lead and chorus vocals)". I translate that as funky, groovy and positively danceable. One of most attractive features of her music is Kidjo's laid-back and undulating lyrical style.

Kidjo's musical roots are very interesting. She hails from Benin but has been living in Paris for the past decade. She cites as her influences the great South African diva Miriam Makeba, Bella Bellow, Soul II Soul and the Neville Brothers. So even before listening to Kidjo's music, you can guess it will be good.

She doesn't ignore politics either. Kidjo's lyrics reflect the developments and situation of the African continent and her country of origin, which has seen major changes in her lifetime. Benin is a former French colony that gained its independence in 1960.

Among the issues tackled on Logozo are the gap between the rich and poor on the tracks "Batonga" and "Tché-tché", the abuse of human rights by governments on "Wé-wé" — "Today, torturers are everywhere; tomorrow who will judge them?" — and the Gulf War on the track "Ekoleya" — "For the 'gentlemen' who govern us, war is a high society game but the real losers are never the players."

Interviewed by Debbie Golt for the new Australian World Music magazine Songlines, Kidjo spoke about the west's perception of Africans: "People think we have no history, no sensibility and this ignorance creates racism and violence. As an artist I have a means to educate people. If they listen to my music with open hearts they can begin to take the necessary steps forward to understanding."

After listening to this album, I'm looking forward to hearing Kidjo's really groovy music live when she tours Australia. Her tour dates are:
Sydney: Thursday, April 2, Paddington RSL; Friday, April 3, Balmain RSL; Sunday, April 5, Paddington RSL.
Brisbane: Saturday, April 4, St Pauls Tavern
Melbourne: Wednesday, April 8, The Palace
Perth: Thursday, April 9, Berlin; Friday, April 10, Fremantle
Adelaide: Saturday, April 11, Old Lion
Cairns: Tuesday, April 14, Stables Nite Club.

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