1/  Refavela                                   (Gil)                         4.16
  2/  Tumba                                      (Kidjo,Brown)                 3.49
  3/  Les Enfants Perdus                         (Veneruso)                    3.13
  4/  Bahia                                      (Kidjo,Hebrail)               3.33
  5/  Ne Cedez Jamais                            (Albert,Kocurek)              3.54
  6/  Iemanja                                    (Kidjo,Brown)                 4.26
  7/  Afirika                                    (Kidjo,Hebrail)               4.15
  8/  Olofoofo                                   (Kidjo,Cantuaria)             4.13
  9/  Ces Petis Riens                            (Gainsbourg)                  2.15
  10/ Black Ivory Soul                           (Kidjo,Hebrail,Faragher)      4.36
  11/ Ominira                                    (Kidjo,Cantuaria)             4.22
  12/ Okan Bale                                  (Kidjo,Brown)                 3.34
  13/ Iwoya                                      (Kidjo,Hebrial,Matthews)      3.47
  14/ Mondjuba                                   (Kidjo,Hebrail)               3.01
  15/ Les Enfants Perdus (Single Version)        (Veneruso)                    3.42

          Recorded at Sear Sound, New York City
          Additional recording at the Magic Shop, NYC and Obatala Studio, Brooklyn
          Bahianese percussion recorded at Cantate Da Cidade, Salvador de Bahia,
          Created at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey
          Engineer at Sear Sound : Clark Germaine
          Additional engineering by Dave Darlington
          Assistant Engineer: Aaron Franz
          Engineering and Protools editing at  the Magic Shop and Obatala: Cyrille
            Taillandier and Jean Hebrail
          Engineer at Orange Music: Robert Musso
          Assistant Engineer: James Dellatacoma
          Protools transfers: DXT
          Reproduction and mix translation: Bill Laswell
          Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York City
Angelique Kidjo: lead vocals, background vocals; Dave Mattews (2): vocals; Brenda White-King, Cindy Mizelle, Dennis Collins and Curtis King (5,8): additional background vocals; Joao Mota and Dominic Kanza: electric guitar; Romero Lubambo: nylon string guitar; Vinicius Cantuaria (3): acoustic guitar; Rubens De La Corte (1): acoustic guitar; Bernie Worrell: organ, Fender Rhodes; Mahamadou Diabate: kora; Michel Alibo: electric bass; Ira Cohen: acoustic bass; Gilmar Iglesias Gomes: Brazilian percussion; Abdou Mboup and Aiyb Dieng: African percussion; Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson: drums; MATERIAL STRINGS - Juliann Klopotic and Cathy Yang: violin; Kathy Sinsabaugh: viola; Tara Chambers: cello.

Music arranged by Angelique Kidjo and Jean Hebrail
Material Strings arranged and conducted by Karl Berger

          2002 - Columbia Records/Sony (Europe), 506069 2 (CD)
          2002 - Columbia Records/Sony (USA), CK 85799 (CD)
Note: Tracks 3, 5 and 15 are not on the US version, and the track order differs on the two versions.


Read this now and remember this forever: Angelique Kidjo is the most charismatic, and accessible singer/entertainer to come out of Africa since Fela Kuti. No slight to the Youssou N'Dours and Salif Keitas, but Mlle. Kidjo alone renders categories such as "Afropop" and "world music" woefully inadequate. OK, so she was born and raised in Africa (Cotonou, Benin), sings mainly in languages other than English (Fon, Yoruba, French) and rocks Afro beats, grooves 'n' melodies, but you can't judge this book by that cover. For Kidjo these are not self-defining factors but merely inspirational grist for her unique vision/sound mill. Her rare gift is the ability to re-contextualize her African cipher as universal pop music by appropriating New World sounds such as R&B, funk, reggae, rock, salsa, and even jazz modals. While Kidjo's maverick bent has often confounded purists and critics, the artistic rewards and commercial success she's reaped speak louder than bombs. Kidjo's latest release, Black Ivory Soul, is her most ambitious undertaking thus far. Recorded live in Bahia, Brazil, and New York studios by iconoclastic producer Bill Laswell, the album finds the vocalist/composer rocking a series of fierce Benin-to-Brazil rhythm excursions. Though Kidjo has enlisted some serious Brazilian-African-American players (including guitar ace Romero Lubambo, percussionist Abdou M'boup, and Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson), this ain't Rhythm of the Saints redux. For one thing, Bahia's samba rhythms are the direct descendants of Benin's traditional bouniyan music. Kidjo closes the circle via full-on collaborations with Carlinhos Brown ("Tumba", "Lemanja", "Okanbale") and Vinicius Cantuaria ("Olofoofo", "Ominara"). On the opening track, "Bahia," invocatory Yoruba vocals, ethereal chorus, pastoral strings, and blue-flame samba drums establish Black Ivory Soul's whisper-to-exaltation template. The album's highlights include: A high-spirited soukous 'n' batucada swerve on Gilberto Gil's "Rafavela"; the majestic kora-driven lullaby "Okanbale" ("Peace of Heart"); the aforementioned Carnaval rave-up "Tumba"; and a tenderly misty-eyed cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Ces Petits Riens".

Tom Terrell, CDNOW contributing writer (courtesy of CDNow)


All Music Guide Angelique Kidjo's records have brought her plenty of acclaim, but they've tended to be very mixed -- some tracks exceptional, others remarkably ordinary. Black Ivory Soul, her exploration of the connection between her native Benin and the Bahian region in the north east of Brazil, might just be her most consistent and satisfying effort to date. She's toned down the R&B influence that peppered 1998's Oremi -- indeed, only the title cut is R&B, and that has a sweet Brazilian inflection -- and focuses instead on the job at hand. Working with talents like Carlinhos Brown and Vinicius Cantaria has obviously helped; "Tumba," for example, fairly crackles with crisp axé rhythms that drive the song along, while"Ominira" and "Afrika" makes the distance between the two continents seem very small indeed. Kidjo gets rootsier here than she has in a long time, as on her version of Gilberto Gil's "Refavela," which offers an unvarnished look -- lyrically and musically -- at the ghetto, or the more introspective "Okanbale," where the rippling kora lines falling like water through the song. Kidjo uses her trademark lush harmonies throughout the album, and she's in great voice, even content to play second fiddle to Dave Matthews on "Iwoya," where the status of the guest star (and the English language vocal) seem like a calculated move to push one of the disc's weakest tracks straight to AAA airplay. But, happily, that's the exception, not the rule; on the whole this record's heart is in art, not commerce, even tossing in a spare, loving cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Ces Petits Riens" to close things out, although it's quite out of place on the record. This time around, Kidjo seems to have followed her muse, not the money, and the results are, virtually, everything she's always promised to do, but never quite achieved before.

Chris Nickson (courtesy of The All Music Guide by way of the Get Music website)