When the time came to record her latest album, "Õÿö," international world music star and outspoken advocate for the world’s disadvantaged Angelique Kidjo went back to her musical roots – and she brought a host of stellar guests with her.
The first single from Õÿö is “Move On Up,” Kidjo’s cover of a 1970 hit by Curtis Mayfield that was orginally recorded with John Legend, but has been reworked by red-hot European production duo Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron (aka Radioclit) and now includes vocals by Bono.
The new version of the song, which is available starting today through iTunes as a vocal remix and a dub mix, was featured on BBC1 DJ Pete Tong’s show last weekend as one of the globe’s “hottest new dance tracks.”
Õÿö features music that inspired the singer during her childhood, including traditional Beninese tunes, ’60s and ’70s soul hits, Miriam Makeba compositions and – believe it or not – a Bollywood song, “Dil Main Chuppa Ke Pyar Ka.”
Standout tracks include Kidjo’s takes on Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You” (with Dianne Reeves), Santana’s “Samba Pati” (with Roy Hargrove), James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” (with members of Antibalas) and Otis Redding’s “I Got Dreams To Remember.”
The song that rounds out the collection, “Atcha Houn,” harkens back to the singer’s very beginnings as a performer.
Kidjo explained that the traditional Beninese tune is “a kind of parade music people sing when they gather together. I sang it at my Mom’s theatre company. My Mom had to push me on stage to do it, but that’s when my addiction to singing, and to the stage, too, got started.”
Adding his voice to “Atcha Houn” and several other tracks on the album is fellow Beninese guitarist/singer Lionel Loueke, who has been friends with the singer since childhood.
“His brother was in my class,” Kidjo explained. “Lionel understood exactly what I was trying to do when I told him I wanted to get into the music that influenced me as a child.”
Kidjo, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and founder of her own educational aid organization The Batonga Foundation, will be front and center among the celebrated African artists on hand for the continent’s debut FIFA World Cup concert in Johannesburg.
The June 10 event, which is part of the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration will also include performances by Alicia Keys, Amadou & Mariam, Black Eyed Peas, Shakira and many others.
The singer will spend much of the year on the road in support of Õÿö, with dates currently on the books though mid-November currently that range from the Theatre Romain Rolland in Villejuif, France, to San Francisco’s Sigmund Stern Grove and from the town square in Goteburg, Sweden to New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Here’s an awesome live clip of Angelique Kidjo singing “Atcha Houn” completely a cappella and a clip of “I Got Dreams” from the same session.