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World - Released March 30, 2015 | 429 Records

Distinctions Grammy Awards
Sings finds the great Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo fronting the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, conducted by Gast Waltzing. This is a studio offering that reflects the highlights of a series of now legendary 2011 concerts between them. Recorded at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, in New York, and in France, the program is a lively and unusual retrospective from Kidjo's career. Along with the orchestra, Kidjo is joined by her own band and guest musicians including guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Christian McBride, and backing vocalists. Arranged by Waltzing and guitarist David Laborier, the material comprises thorough revisionings of songs central to Kidjo's catalog, including dramatic presentations of "Malaika," "Loloye," "Kelele," the traditional "Otishe," "Nanae," and her gorgeous "Naima" (not to be confused with John Coltrane's tune of the same title). While the music is certainly far "busier" and more florid than the work on her earlier records, this presentation is thoroughly lovely and her big contralto gets right on top of the orchestra, while the rhythms sound as organic as ever. Two interesting covers on the set include a deeply soulful reading of Carlos Santana's "Samba Pa Ti," with a great flügelhorn solo by Waltzing, and Sidney Bechet and Ferdinand Bonifay's "Petite Fleur" arranged in a manner that pays homage to Kidjo's idol, Édith Piaf. Perhaps the greatest asset of this particular recording is how it reaffirms what we already knew: that Kidjo can deliver any song in any setting and remain iconic. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released April 18, 2010 | Proper Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Africa - Released June 18, 2021 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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For 30 years, Angélique Kidjo has been recognised all over the world for her music, both for her enormous successes and her all-round social commitment. She has demonstrated that she can not only move mountains, she can even make them dance. Nothing can stop her: certainly not a pandemic. This album was written during those long months of lockdown when the world's musicians stopped their touring. But none of that gloom makes it into her record. Mother Nature is a real vaccine against despair, the opposite of an inward-looking or fretful album. From the first moments of Choose Love, Angélique Kidjo's voice explodes with a wild energy. And it's catching. Mother Nature is a big, sunny party album, with a long list of VIP guests from the world of Afropop, including Burna Boy, Sampa the Great, EarthGang, Yemi Alade, M, Salif Keita and guitarist Lionel Loueke. The record enjoys an inventive contemporary electro production, which gives pride of place to the lead and backing vocals. In this way, Angélique Kidjo honours an African musical history which is in perpetual flux. Her revisiting of Independence Chacha, an old political/celebratory anthem by the Congolese Grand Kalle, could well become the hit of summer 2021, the one song that makes you want to go out, scream, dance in the rain, sing in the sun and not worry about the neighbours. As its title suggests, the theme of this album is the natural world, and Angélique Kidjo most certainly is a force of nature. © Stéphane Deschamps / Qobuz
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World - Released April 19, 2019 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Since she began releasing solo recordings in 1981, Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo has illustrated the reliance of Western popular musics on African traditions for inspiration. In 2018, the vocalist enlisted an all-star cast that included Nigerian drum master Tony Allen and some American indie rockers to display the coat of many colors that lies in the grooves of the Talking Heads' Remain in Light by revisioning the entire album through that lens. Kidjo is at it again with Celia, her album-length tribute to the queen of salsa, Cuban singer Celia Cruz. This time the connection is seamless. Kidjo began listening to Cruz's music in 1974, after seeing her perform in Benin as part of an African tour. Cruz readily acknowledged the African influence in her music and has sought to draw attention to it throughout her career -- especially after her exile from Cuba in 1959 -- by singing Yoruban songs exported during the slave trade some 400 years previously. Kidjo's affinity for the salsa pioneer grew deeper after being exiled herself from Benin when a Marxist/Leninist government took power during the '80s. On Celia, Kidjo delivers ten tracks Cruz recorded and performed at various points in her career (but focuses mainly on the '50s when she fronted La Sonora Matancera), revisioned through a rainbow palette of African sounds without sacrificing their Latin grooves. Allen returns on drums, while Meshell Ndegeocello appears on bass alongside saxophonist and renaissance man Shabaka Hutchings and his Sons of Kemet tuba boss Theon Cross (the entire quartet performs on "Bemba Colora"), Kidjo's longtime guitarist Dominic James, the Gangbé Brass Band from Benin, Togo guitarist Amen Viana, and others. Recorded in New York and Paris, the set commences with "Cucala." While its ringing guitars are drenched in Nigerian high life, the horn chart is drawn from South African jive while Allen lays down meaty, propulsive Afrobeat rhythms. On "La Vida Es un Carnaval," a late hit for Cruz, Kidjo and the band weave through Ethiopian jazz and Senegalese funk. The singer employs cello, bass, marimba, percussion, piano, and organ on a reading of Tito Puente's "Sahara" that transitions from Berber-esque desert drones to Afro-Cuban son and rhumba. "Elegua" and closer "Yemaya" are both rooted in the Santeria chants Kidjo loved as a child. They are included as reflections of Cruz's deep commitment to African traditional music. Kidjo's chart peels away the horn-driven guaracha feel of Cruz’s recordings with La Sonora Matancera to reveal their profound spirituality. The classic "Quimbara" transforms its standard-time guaguancó rhythms through Allen's 6/8 Afrobeat charge above a small army of percussion instruments and snaky guitar lines from Viana, who beautifully evokes a griot's kora. "Bemba Colora" is a proto salsa tune originally delivered by Cruz on 1966's Son con Guaguanco. It's offered somewhat straight here, though its textures and dynamics are more frenetic thanks to Sons of Kemet, Viana's guitar, and Vane's Farfisa. Kidjo succeeds on Celia because she not only pays revelatory tribute to a prime influence, but channels that very spirit of inspiration to deliver a high-water mark in her catalog. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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World - Released February 20, 2012 | Razor & Tie

Booklet
A CD and DVD representation of an uplifting live special Angélique Kidjo taped at WGBH Studios, Spirit Rising features guest spots from Branford Marsalis, Josh Groban, Ezra Koenig, Diane Reeves, dancers from the Broadway show FELA!, the Borromeo String Quartet, the Kuumba Choir, and a horn section courtesy of Berklee College. © TiVo
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World - Released May 1, 2007 | Razor & Tie

Coming full circle, Angelique Kidjo returns to her Beninese roots for the star-studded Djin Djin album, whose title, which loosely translates as Seize the Day, aptly sums up the set and its themes. Djin Djin kicks off with the bright and breezy "Ae Ae," just the type of irrepressible pop/world-without-borders number that regularly takes all of Europe by storm, booming out of clubs from Iceland to Ibiza. It's so infectious that, even though the lyrics are apparently in Spanish, the entire continent joins in regardless, although few will grasp its serious message of the economic distress driving Africans onto European shores. Slightly more sophisticated but equally irresistible is "Papa," an urban club monster-to-be whose blistering rhythms vie with Kidjo's belted-out vocals, all wrapped in a supple arrangement that beautifully blends funk, soul, Afro-beat, and more. And then there's the funky, carnival-styled cover of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," which almost seems to celebrate rape and murder. Kidjo's anger is more evident on "Senamou," featuring old friends Amadou & Mariam, a song themed around the upper crust's bling-shackled life, and whose universal truths are reflected in an arrangement that combines African, Middle Eastern, funk, and rock elements. Carlos Santana's elegant guitar illuminates "Pearls," while Kidjo and Josh Groban valiantly try to give weight to Sade's bathos-bathed lyrics. Much better are the haunting title track, featuring Alicia Keys and Branford Marsalis; the smoldering "Salala," which twins the singer with Peter Gabriel; and the Afro-reggae "Sedjedo," where she's joined by Ziggy Marley. "Arouna" also has a reggae tinge around its Arab-esque arrangement, and celebrates individuality on a crowded planet. "Emma," in contrast, explores isolation, and does it with a country twang, a styling that also infects the bouncier "Mama Golo Papa." With the final track, "Lonlon," Kidjo completes the journey, across an inspired vocal version of Ravel's Bolero, a piece that itself broadly hinted at the ties between North and South, East and West, connections made even clearer here. With its many moods, fusions of styles, exploration of serious issues, uplifting themes, and alternately haunting or infectious melodies, Djin Djin is a stunning set, enhanced by the efforts of the fabulous musicians within and Tony Visconti's masterful production. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary World Music Album. © Jo-Ann Greene /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Angelique Kidjo has alienated some musicians and fans who want her to do traditional African music rather than mix and match her slashing delivery with rock, R&B and pop elements and arrangements. But Kidjo doesn't want to do a strictly African date. She recorded five numbers at Paisley Park studios, and they reflect the punchy guitar and synth-dominated Minneapolis sound. The other five tunes were recorded in London, with both a dance-soul flavor and nice horn backing and arrangements. Kidjo hasn't done a sellout album, despite singing in English on some cuts (another move designed to anger some of the hardcore). Rather, she's trying to link all her interests and do a respectable pop effort with some African elements. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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World - Released March 30, 2015 | 429 Records

Hi-Res Booklet
Sings finds the great Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo fronting the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, conducted by Gast Waltzing. This is a studio offering that reflects the highlights of a series of now legendary 2011 concerts between them. Recorded at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, in New York, and in France, the program is a lively and unusual retrospective from Kidjo's career. Along with the orchestra, Kidjo is joined by her own band and guest musicians including guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Christian McBride, and backing vocalists. Arranged by Waltzing and guitarist David Laborier, the material comprises thorough revisionings of songs central to Kidjo's catalog, including dramatic presentations of "Malaika," "Loloye," "Kelele," the traditional "Otishe," "Nanae," and her gorgeous "Naima" (not to be confused with John Coltrane's tune of the same title). While the music is certainly far "busier" and more florid than the work on her earlier records, this presentation is thoroughly lovely and her big contralto gets right on top of the orchestra, while the rhythms sound as organic as ever. Two interesting covers on the set include a deeply soulful reading of Carlos Santana's "Samba Pa Ti," with a great flügelhorn solo by Waltzing, and Sidney Bechet and Ferdinand Bonifay's "Petite Fleur" arranged in a manner that pays homage to Kidjo's idol, Édith Piaf. Perhaps the greatest asset of this particular recording is how it reaffirms what we already knew: that Kidjo can deliver any song in any setting and remain iconic. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1991 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

State-of-the-art production and mainstreamed African dance beats are poised to propel this talented singer from Benin to international pop stardom. Branford Marsalis, Ray Lema, and Manu Dibango contribute. © Bob Tarte /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 19, 2002 | Columbia

Angelique Kidjo's records have brought her plenty of acclaim, but they've tended to be very mixed -- some tracks exceptional, others remarkably ordinary. Black Ivory Soul, her exploration of the connection between her native Benin and the Bahian region in the north east of Brazil, might just be her most consistent and satisfying effort to date. She's toned down the R&B influence that peppered 1998's Oremi -- indeed, only the title cut is R&B, and that has a sweet Brazilian inflection -- and focuses instead on the job at hand. Working with talents like Carlinhos Brown and Vinicius Cantaria has obviously helped; "Tumba," for example, fairly crackles with crisp axé rhythms that drive the song along, while"Ominira" and "Afrika" makes the distance between the two continents seem very small indeed. Kidjo gets rootsier here than she has in a long time, as on her version of Gilberto Gil's "Refavela," which offers an unvarnished look -- lyrically and musically -- at the ghetto, or the more introspective "Okanbale," where the rippling kora lines falling like water through the song. Kidjo uses her trademark lush harmonies throughout the album, and she's in great voice, even content to play second fiddle to Dave Matthews on "Iwoya," where the status of the guest star (and the English language vocal) seem like a calculated move to push one of the disc's weakest tracks straight to AAA airplay. But, happily, that's the exception, not the rule; on the whole this record's heart is in art, not commerce, even tossing in a spare, loving cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Ces Petits Riens" to close things out, although it's quite out of place on the record. This time around, Kidjo seems to have followed her muse, not the money, and the results are, virtually, everything she's always promised to do, but never quite achieved before. © Chris Nickson /TiVo
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World - Released April 6, 2010 | Razor & Tie

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EVE

World - Released April 7, 2014 | Savoy

Eve is Beninese singer/songwriter Angélique Kidjo's first recording in nearly four years. Its title is inspired literally by her mother Yvonne's nickname, and metaphorically for the Judeo-Christian heritage's first woman. It is "dedicated to the women of Africa: to their resilience and their beauty." Produced by Patrick Dillett, the album was recorded in the U.S., France, Luxembourg, and Africa. The cast of musicians is stellar: Lionel Loueke and Dominic James on guitars, Steve Jordan on drums, Christian McBride on bass, and Jean Hébrail on programming and arrangements, plus a slew of percussionists and keyboardists and a horn section. Guests include Rostam Batmagli (Vampire Weekend), Dr. John, Bernie Worrell, Nigerian singer ASA, the Kronos Quartet, Steven Bernstein, Stuart Bogie, and, on the sweeping, nearly transcendent "Awalole," the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. This is no ordinary "world fusion" exercise. This is a modern pop record whose roots and rhythms are deep in African, Caribbean, and Latin traditions. After recording these tracks, Kidjo went to Africa with a six-track tape recorder and captured eight Beninese women's choirs in a variety of languages, Cotonou's fabulous Trio Teriba, and the Merti Samburu choir from Kenya, who are featured on "M'baamba (Kenyan Song)," a traditional song given a cooking, punchy modern arrangement full of whomping, entwined low-end basses, intricate guitar lines, and soaring organ. "Shango Wa" is boiling Afro-funk with swirling organ, hyperkinetic basslines, waves of rolling drums, nasty wah-wah guitar, and a women's choir soaring to meet Kidjo's propulsive vocal. The ballad "Blewu" is a stripped-down guitar-and-voice duet with countryman Loueke. "Bomba" -- one of two tracks featuring Batmagli on guitar -- is an ebullient call-and-response number where sky-scorching B-3, careening funky bass, and lyrical guitars surround the choir and Kidjo, who adds a soul tinge to her delivery, creating an irresistible contrast. "Kulumbu" is a folk song that jumps with Dr. John's pumping NOLA R&B piano. "Ebile," with Kronos, is one of the more unusual arrangements here, but because of its timbre, melody, vocal style, and raw polyrhythmic layers, feels nearly traditional. Another stunner is "Bana," where Kidjo sings with her mother and a choir as highlife, Beninese folk and pop, and Caribbean rhythms all come together infectiously. The driving Afro-Cuban funk in "Orisha," with its dirty keyboard bass and popping horns, is low-down and celebratory. Dillett's production is brilliant. He seamlessly weaves together the polished, pristine sounds of modern pop with organic sounds and textures, and captures the boundless energy of it all as if it were live. There are several milestones in Kidjo's nearly 30-year recording career; Eve is certainly one of them. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Afro-pop star Angelique Kidjo's last album of the 1990s was her best yet. Titled Oremi, which means "friends," her fifth album was a tour de force with many great collaborations, including hip-hop star Kelly Price ("Open Your Eyes"), Robbie Neville, Cassandra Wilson (the duet "Never Know"), and Branford Marsalis. The first CD in a proposed "American" trilogy, Oremi explores the connections between African music and R&B. The album begins with a reinterpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child," perhaps the best cover of his material ever. Oremi, however, is not simply a stylistic album; higher consciousness and political sentiments are here too, especially with the impassioned plea in "Babalao" to care for the world's youth. This album is Angelique Kidjo's strongest, most inspired one, but her mainstream stylistic choices opened her up to criticism for being too "pop" and not "African" enough. Such comments are truly unfounded. Oremi is sexy, thrilling, and powerful. One of the best albums in the genre. A good place to start for someone beginning to listen to world music. © JT Griffith /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1996 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Angelique Kidjo's fifth album Fifa saw the artist experimenting further with the Western genres of soul and pop, resulting in her most mainstream record to date. As evidenced by "Naima," the stunning collaboration with Carlos Santana, Kidjo's instincts for pairing African rhythms and Western structures are inspired. Other highlights include "Wombo Lombo," "The Sound of the Drums," and "Shango." Unfortunately, Fifa proved to be a marketing challenge in the United States, and this melodic and rhythmic Kidjo record remains hard to find and largely undiscovered. A wonderful release. © JT Griffith /TiVo
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World - Released March 30, 2015 | Savoy

Sings finds the great Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo fronting the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, conducted by Gast Waltzing. This is a studio offering that reflects the highlights of a series of now legendary 2011 concerts between them. Recorded at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, in New York, and in France, the program is a lively and unusual retrospective from Kidjo's career. Along with the orchestra, Kidjo is joined by her own band and guest musicians including guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Christian McBride, and backing vocalists. Arranged by Waltzing and guitarist David Laborier, the material comprises thorough revisionings of songs central to Kidjo's catalog, including dramatic presentations of "Malaika," "Loloye," "Kelele," the traditional "Otishe," "Nanae," and her gorgeous "Naima" (not to be confused with John Coltrane's tune of the same title). While the music is certainly far "busier" and more florid than the work on her earlier records, this presentation is thoroughly lovely and her big contralto gets right on top of the orchestra, while the rhythms sound as organic as ever. Two interesting covers on the set include a deeply soulful reading of Carlos Santana's "Samba Pa Ti," with a great flügelhorn solo by Waltzing, and Sidney Bechet and Ferdinand Bonifay's "Petite Fleur" arranged in a manner that pays homage to Kidjo's idol, Édith Piaf. Perhaps the greatest asset of this particular recording is how it reaffirms what we already knew: that Kidjo can deliver any song in any setting and remain iconic. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Africa - Released June 18, 2021 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

For 30 years, Angélique Kidjo has been recognised all over the world for her music, both for her enormous successes and her all-round social commitment. She has demonstrated that she can not only move mountains, she can even make them dance. Nothing can stop her: certainly not a pandemic. This album was written during those long months of lockdown when the world's musicians stopped their touring. But none of that gloom makes it into her record. Mother Nature is a real vaccine against despair, the opposite of an inward-looking or fretful album. From the first moments of Choose Love, Angélique Kidjo's voice explodes with a wild energy. And it's catching. Mother Nature is a big, sunny party album, with a long list of VIP guests from the world of Afropop, including Burna Boy, Sampa the Great, EarthGang, Yemi Alade, M, Salif Keita and guitarist Lionel Loueke. The record enjoys an inventive contemporary electro production, which gives pride of place to the lead and backing vocals. In this way, Angélique Kidjo honours an African musical history which is in perpetual flux. Her revisiting of Independence Chacha, an old political/celebratory anthem by the Congolese Grand Kalle, could well become the hit of summer 2021, the one song that makes you want to go out, scream, dance in the rain, sing in the sun and not worry about the neighbours. As its title suggests, the theme of this album is the natural world, and Angélique Kidjo most certainly is a force of nature. © Stéphane Deschamps / Qobuz
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Pop/Rock - Released May 3, 2004 | Saint George

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Jazz - Released May 4, 2004 | Columbia

This time around Angélique Kidjo has definitely delivered the goods, exploring the African Diaspora westwards, and the effect it's had on Latin music (and vice versa, as the trips and influences weren't always one-way). So, in the opener "Seyin Djro," for example, one can hear a Latin bounciness, but also percussion and singing from Africa, while "Cogoleo" investigates the many Atlantic crossing on Congolese rumba, and even adds West African balofon for good measure, giving an intriguing mix of West and Central African music. The whole album is a good time, but also extremely thoughtful, such as on "Congo Habanera," which slithers sexily and loudly, or "Adje Dada," where the kora harp ripples in and out of a Latin groove whose roots are in Africa. "Bissimilai" heads further south, taking on the colors of Brazil -- but that's only right, since it had one of the highest slave populations of anywhere in the Americas. Perhaps the odd piece out is the ballad "Le Monde Comme un Bébé," with its strings, a duet with Henri Salvador that seems to stand outside Kidjo's concept. Far too many times in the past, albums from the Benin diva have fallen short. But this deserves plenty of praise. The connections between Africa and the blues and Africa and Cuba (as Kidjo does herself on one track here, with the tres and African guitar soloing off each other to great effect) have been dug into often. Yes, others have pointed out and illustrated the bonds between Latin and African music, but Kidjo remains high-profile enough that plenty of people might actually listen this time. © Chris Nickson /TiVo
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Africa - Released March 26, 2021 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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OYO

World - Released April 6, 2010 | Razor & Tie

Angélique Kidjo was born in Cotonou, Benin, but like many modern African artists, she's gone her own way, using traditional music to forge her own personal hybrid of African, European, and American pop. On this album Kidjo pays tribute to the people who inspired her career, including her mother, Miriam Makeba, and American R&B artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Otis Redding. And while the tunes Kidjo tackles may be familiar, her arrangements turn them inside out and shed new light on their African roots. "Cold Sweat" gets a take that salutes the Afro-beat of Fela Kuti, who used Brown's funk for his own music. The rhythm-heavy track swings like mad, with Kidjo's powerful vocal climbing the scale and weaving in and around the backbeat. She bases her version of "Mbube" (better known in the U.S. as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") on the singing of Makeba, and uses the original Zulu lyrics. A simple acoustic guitar and percussion arrangement gives Kidjo room to show off her impressive range and emotional skill. Kidjo used to make up words to the American songs she couldn't understand, and sings Yoruba lyrics to Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams to Remember." Its Memphis-meets-Cotonou approach is intensified by the female backing vocalists and Kidjo's wailing high end. Bollywood tunes were also a big part of Kidjo's upbringing. On "Dil Main Chuppa Ke Pyar Ka," a hit by Mohammed Rafi, Steve Gorn drops a flute solo that recalls a Zulu pennywhistle into a Congolese rhythm track. Kidjo's originals include "Kelele," a sprightly highlife tune, and "Afia," a re-Africanized samba written with Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria. © j. poet /TiVo