November-December 2007

Artist: Angélique Kidjo

Title: Oyaya!

Label: Columbia Records

anglique_kidjo.jpgSay you've got to move and you've misplaced your energy supplements? No problem.  Pop on Oyaya! and crank up the volume.  You'll soon be doing all the moving you need to do - and I mean "moving" from taking all your stuff from here to there as well as "moving" your body to the groove.

From the first staccato hits on the snare drum, introducing some deliciously dexterous acoustic guitar work, followed quickly by some smoking slides on electric bass, the sense that you are in for an energetic ride becomes clear.  Though she is not a very big person, Kidjo has a huge voice and enough energy to get us all to dance -  or move furniture!  You get the sense that she really doesn't need a microphone to front a band replete with guitars, several percussionists, drums, keyboards, horns and a host of backup singers.

You'll not be catching your breath until the third cut, Bala Bala, but even the slow songs come off with a lively sexual tension that makes a listener feel inspired to move.  All the way around, this is truly one of the most uplifting, spirited CDs in recent release - in fact, I don't recall music so vitally executed since the heyday of fusion jazz - though that's about as devoid of sensuality as music gets.  This is as energetic (sometimes more energetic), but far more soulful and emotional. Angélique's voice. large and commanding, still nuances notes with passion, hints of sadness, sensuality, longing, power and joy.  All with exclamation points.  Continually, I am amazed by the feeling of power that always comes through her voice in even quiet, sensual passages.

A refugee from the small west African country of Bénin, transplanted to Paris, Angélique sings songs with flavors of jazz, traditional African music, rock ‘n' roll, and Caribbean  Latin, all blended into one helluva danceable music.  Her vocals express emotions so well, a listener doesn't care what language she's singing in - although I think a lot of it is French, but some songs are in some of the languages of Bénin, Fon, Mina and Yoruba, but don't ask me to identify which is which.

The production is smooth, as impeccable as contemporary music gets - each song gets it's own work up, Mototo Kwanza has an energetic (if brief) sax solo, the many acoustic guitar solos on the CD are awesome fluid lines infused with Caribbean jazz; all have an abundance of percussion and most are punctuated with backup singers and a talented horn section.  What instrument is that blazing solo in Adja Dad played on?  A harp?  Amazing!

Don't wait another minute!  Get moving to put this CD into your collection and get all of your life in high gear.