Sunday, June 03, 2007

Djin Djin

One of the ways that underappreciated or veteran artists try to bring attention to their music is by having a lot of famous admirers and/or friends guest star on their record.

Ray Charles went out on the Grammy winning grace note of Genius Loves Company and Carlos Santana roared back onto the charts and award podiums with the star-studded Supernatural (Carlos continued the formula on his next two records with diminishing results and interest.) Sam Moore’s friends and admirers joined him on the remarkable Overnight Sensational and Warren Zevon, dying of terminal cancer, had a similar gathering on his final album, the wistfully graceful but still feisty The Wind.

Angelique Kidjo, the amazing “world music” singer who was born in Benin, new CD, Djin Djin (see promo video in the post below this one), follows this formula by being front loaded with big name guest appearances. As always, Kidjo sings in an array of the languages she is fluent in…including Yoruba, French, and English…and she remains squarely in the spotlight more than holding her own with her high-powered guests.

After opening with the jubilant “Ae Ae”, the CD features 6 straight cuts featuring the guests. Alicia Keys and saxophonist Branford Marsalis bring their distinctive voices to the title cut (which refers to the sound of a bell that announces the dawn in parts of Africa) while Kidjo and Joss Stone romp through a potent cover of “Gimme Shelter” (it has none of the menace of the Stones original but it throbs along with an almost irresistible beat of its own.)

Peter Gabriel, long a proponent of “world music”, chimes in on “Salala” while Amadou and Mariam, the accomplished “blind couple from Mali” add their wondrous voices to the jaunty “Senamou”

Josh Groban’s soaring voice and Carlos Santana’s distinctive guitar blend with Kidjo to fine effect on “Pearls” as does Ziggy Marley on the reggae-inflected “Sedjeno”.

Kidjo deftly handles the second half of the disc on her own starting with the propulsive “Papa” to the lilting “Emma” (which opens with a stunning a cappella vocal and then segues into a swaying beat accompanied by a shimmering choir of backup singers) to celebratory “Mama Golo Papa” to the closing “Lonlon”, a lovely (and audacious) interpretation of Ravel’s “Bolero”.

It’s a cliché that music is the universal language but it is true nevertheless…you don’t have understand the lyrics being sung to immerse yourself joyfully in the wonders of Djin Djin.

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More MKW Blogstuff: Bread and Roses

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