Published Jan 28, 2014Angélique Kidjo's energy is communicable, so much so that there could be a temptation to praise "African's Premier Diva" based on bygone successes, and not on the new album proper. At age 53, and with a discography spanning more than 20 years, the Benin-born singer-songwriter has nothing to prove at this point. But substantiate she does, this time out inspired and emboldened by the memory of her late father and the work ethic and spiritualism of her mother, the titular Eve of this record.
By extension, Kidjo manages to capture and distil the energy and dynamism of African womanhood by leveraging women's choirs from several villages in her native Benin and Kenya; one catches oneself marveling at Kidjo's energy even after all these years. Now based in Brooklyn, she manages to blend Western music influences, many African languages (Fon, Yoruba, English), and an overarching worldly sense of approachability. But what stands out most on her tenth album is the front-and-centre confidence and empowerment vibe that permeates each track: "Bana," featuring her mother Yvonne "Eve" Kidjo, sonically uplifts with a traditional message of empowerment and duet "Blewu," with guitarist Romero Lubambo, resonates, while guest production and appearances by Asa (the cool "Eva"), Dr. John (the understated "Kulumbu,") and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend (the standout "Bomba") round things out from an artistically satisfying perspective. Eve speaks of enablement and backs it up with nominal weak spots and a "heavy rotation" worthy presentation.
Read an interview with Angélique Kidjo here. (429 Records/Universal)