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Angelique Kidjo
 Fifa, Island Records CD 162-531 039-2 (43:44)

Energetic, infectious Afro-funk

If you're unfamiliar with Afro-pop singer Angelique Kidjo, her latest recording Fifa will provide you with a representative sampling of her enormous vocal power and pulsating energy. The sound is infectious and you'll find it difficult to sit still.

It's difficult to classify Kidjo's music since it covers so many different styles. Afro-funk seems closest, but you'll also find the influence of reggae, samba, salsa, gospel, jazz, Zairean rumba, zouk, makossa, and other "world music" styles in her compositions.

Born in Quidah, a coastal city in the multi-cultural West African country of Benin, Kidjo sings in many languages including English, French, and her native Fon. Raised in a musical family, she first performed with the French jazz group Pili Pili, who performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1987. Kidjo had an international hit with "Angolo," which came off her album  Aye (Island Records, 1993) and this brought the engaging and charismatic singer/composer to the forefront of high-energy Afro Pop.

On Fifa, her fifth release, Kidjo wanted to include influences of her native country so she recorded traditional percussionists, flutists, and backup singers. These recordings were then combined (through the use of the very latest in recording technology, we are told in the liner notes) with Kidjo and other musicians in Paris, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The result is a collection of infectious dance tracks with lyrical ballads. In "Sound of the Drums," backup singers start with "I've been away for so long that I wonder/if the sound of the drums/still has its power." Backed by driving and pulsating horns, guitars, and rhythm section, Kidjo then launches into her deep, throaty and positive response. It's as if Kidjo wanted to reach into her past and bring her earliest musical influences to her present.

In the title track, "Fifa," Kidjo best demonstrates the expansive range and depth of her vocal power. Her voice is guttural and Kidjo reaches deep within herself for a rich and, at times, masculine tone. She sings with great emotion and is definitely enjoying herself. I was fortunate to see Kidjo perform several years ago after the release of  Logozo (Island Records, 1991), her third album, and was deeply impressed by her commanding stage presence. Standing barely five feet tall, Kidjo dances with incredible energy and grace; she also knows how to get people on the dance floor.

The album closes with Coltrane's soft and sweet ballad "Naima." On it, guest guitarist Carlos Santana provides an electric solo perfectly contrasting Kidjo's caring and sensitive lyrics. At just under forty-four minutes,  Fifa goes by far too quickly . . . but I bet you'll enjoy the ride. -  Mark Craemer

production notes & song titles

Angelique Kidjo, vocals. Lester Mendez, keyboards and programming. Jean Hebrail, programming. Keith Cohen, additional programming. David Fall, drums. Jacob Desvarieux, guitar. Glenn Nightengale, guitar. Busi Mhlongo, Khanyo Maphumulo, Khululiwe Sithole, and Ray Lema South Africa backings. Debbie Davis, Beckie Bell, Joniece Jamison, Yvonne Jones and Mike Robinson American backings. Snake Davis, saxophones and brass arrangement. John Thirkell, trumpet. Dennis Rollins, trombone. Carlos Santana, guest guitarist on Naima. Luis Conte, percussion. Sanjay Divecha, acoustic guitar. And well over 100 additional percussionists, flutists, and backup singers from Benin participated on this recording.

Produced by Jean Hebrail. Recorded in various locations in Benin, Paris, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The Sound of the Drums | Wombo Lombo | Welcome | Shango | Bitchifi | Fifa | Goddess of the Sea | Akwaba | Koro-Koro | Naima

of related interest

Further information on Kidjo and her recordings can be found on the World Wide Web at

Copyright © 1996 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.