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Angélique Kidjo
BLACK IVORY SOUL
(COLUMBIA)

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On past releases, Benin-born singer Angélique Kidjo has gone out of her way to connect the music of her native continent with that of the rest of the world. On Black Ivory Soul, she completes the Afro-Atlantic cultural circle, hot-rodding her Afropop program with a high-grade Brazilian plug-in. She’s joined by the now customary roster of name guest stars. Past invitees have included Branford Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Kelly Price, and Carlos Santana; here the roster includes famed Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown and countryman guitarist Vincius Cantuaria as well as funk keyboard genius Bernie Worrell, Dave Matthews, and percussionist Ayib Deng.

But the most telling addition is producer Bill Laswell, whose layered, textural production gives Kidjo a more comfortable, spacious setting than she’s had in the past, when she’d lean a little heavily on the techno-pop side. Some choices she could have done without: "Iwoya" (a duet with Matthews) is semi-disposable Sting-by-way-of-The-Lion-King worldpap. But she dances playfully through the croons of "Tumba" and coasts over the infectious "Ominira" (written with Cantuaria). That the West African/Brazilian fusion works so well is no surprise when you consider the cross-pollination that has occurred over the centuries. Still, Kidjo doesn’t take those similarities for granted, and that makes Black Ivory Soul one of her most satisfying discs yet.

(Angélique Kidjo performs at the Somerville Theatre on June 29. Call 617-931-2000.)

BY TONY GREEN

Issue Date: June 6 - 13, 2002
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