Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Africa In All Of Us

msuic AngeliqueKidjoWhen it comes to classifying her work, Angelique Kidjo is not unlike many artists. She is resistant to the idea that what she does can be neatly accounted for or encapsulated with a single word. However, while many musicians feel that genre has the effect of boxing them in, Kidjo is more concerned that the genre to which she is most commonly linked shuts too many other forms of musical expression out.

“World music,” according to the Benin-born singer/songwriter, is not a good description of what she does. “We all live in the same world,” she explains. To her mind, all music ever produced is technically “world music.” And besides, if it is her African heritage that makes her a “world” musician, then every type of music should fall into the same category.

“We are all African,” Kidjo says with certainty. “There is something in everyone that can relate to Africa.”

Still, it can’t be denied that there is something very worldly about Kidjo—both as a musician and a person.

Ever since Kidjo began recording her songs in the early 1980s, she has been a musical explorer, never content to dwell on one style too long. She has reached out to a wide variety of artists, including Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Alicia Keys, Josh Groban and Ezra Koenig, always with an open ear, so that through the process of collaboration she might learn to speak their musical language.

She has proven herself an apt pupil of musical styles over the years. On her 1991 release, Logozo, she melds her West African roots with the stripped-down sounds of early-’90s dance-pop on “Batonga.” On 1990’s Parakou she brings the tempo way down on “Blewu,” with soft droplets of percussion, sparse, ethereal synth swells and her very own, made-up language (which sounds like a combination of her native tongue and French). More recently, on “Move On Up,” she leaves it all on the table as she belts out the lyrics in English over fevered conga-soul drumming and back-up vocals from Bono and John Legend.

She sings her songs in various languages because there are certain feelings and emotions that can only be accurately represented in certain languages, she says. And she “doesn’t have any power over” which language the song will be in.

“When it comes out, it just comes out the way it comes out,” Kidjo says matter-of-factly.

But on a more personal level, Kidjo feels a kinship with all of humanity, and she has worked hard over the course of her decades-long career—in music and humanitarian work—to pull others together in a spirit of global harmony.

“I try through my music to empower people,” Kidjo says. “There are problems, but there are solutions to those problems.”

The latest solution Kidjo is offering is a two-disc, CD and DVD live set of songs spanning her career. The album, released at the beginning of this year, is titled Spirit Rising.

Kidjo pulled out all the stops for Spirit Rising. She says it took years to get everyone she wanted involved to WGBH Studios in Boston, Mass. at the same time. Finally, in 2011, she brought together a long list of musicians from a variety of backgrounds, including the aforementioned Koenig and Groban, along with Dianne Reeves and Branford Marsalis, to perform songs like “Batonga” and “Move On Up.” Kidjo brought along a full choir, horns, a string section and dancers from the award-winning Broadway production, “FELA!”

She says she created a DVD so that she could bring the power of her live performance into people’s living rooms. “People tell me all the time, ‘When we listen to your CD, we have fun, but when we come to your show we have even more fun!’”

It’s safe to say the production won’t be as grand at The Rio Theatre on Nov. 18, but Kidjo insists that won’t matter. She says that all her songs can be sung a cappella or with acoustic guitar accompaniment without losing their meaning or punch. Hers is a humble form of songwriting, no doubt learned during her humble upbringing under the warm African sun. 

Angelique Kidjo will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $30. For tickets, visit kuumbwajazz.inticketing.com, or call Logos Books  & Records at 427-5100. Photo: Nabil Elderkin

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.