WORLD MUSIC SHORT TAKES
by J. Pepper
Angélique Kidjo, Celia (Verve, 2019)
Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Her latest album Celia is a stunning tribute to Cuban singer Celia Cruz. The album includes songs spanning all of Celia Cruz’s career reinvented with an Afrobeat feel. Which I might add, she just won a GRAMMY for the Best World Music Album. The album is a stunning illumination of what is best about the queen of salsa’s tunes and the Latin and Afrobeat genres. The opener “Cucala” features the use of guitar and percussion, where usually brass stakes its place, giving the tune a rhythmic driving force as Kidjo’s commanding voice resonates with its celebratory ambiance. Kidjo has an ever-inventive spirit, on “La Vida Es un Carnaval,” the band gives the tune an Ethiopian jazz and Senegalese funk treatment. “Yemaya” highlights the orisha (spirit) of motherhood, the album is a no-holds-barred tour de force.
Deline Briscoe, Wawu (Gaba Musik, 2019)
Australian artist Deline Briscoe steps forward with her album Wawu. Based in the Yalanji word encompassing the concepts of spirit, heart, love, and connections between people, land, past, present, and future, the album portrays a story of four generations of women from one family: Deline, her daughter Jadamali, her mother and her mother’s mother – Ngadijina. Sung in Yalanji language as well as English, the album is a triumphant reassurance that through strength and perseverance, you can overcome. Briscoe has a buoyant and well-versed voice, able to convey each song with an emotive feeling of redemption. The title track “Wawu,” is highlighted with a soul-based groove that begins with an almost prayer-like blessing with Briscoe’s soaring vocals colorizing the brief introduction. “Sonrise” offers an introspective ballad that further highlights the beauty of Briscoe’s voice, her crystalline tone is filled with pensive gentleness that allows the listener to experience the calmness of a morning awakening. The closer “Need Your Love,” offers a caressing rhythmic pliability provided by percussionist Airileke Ingram. Briscoe waxes poetically about the non-materialist desires of love. Briscoe may be a new name to several markets, but it appears this Australian export is quickly catching on.
Lakou Mizik, Haitianola (Cumbancha, 2019)
The Haitian powerhouse collective Lakou Mizik puts forth a soulful mix of styles that reminisces familiarity while still breaking new ground. Each track features a cavalcade of guests that each help texturize the tracks to a non-stop joyous groove filled with island rhythms. The opening track “Renmen,” signals this is a party NOLA style. Preservation Jazz Hall Band is featured on this track, which immediately signals you are in brassy good time. “Pistach Griye” is adorned by Trombone Shorty’s signature slides, which lends to the track is given a saucy gusto. The closer “Mizik Sa Yo” with King James has a rockish-reggae vibe, James has a weathered voice that is filled with powerful resonance. The added effect of an answer and call chorus of voices adds to the impact of the track. Lakou Mizik was born from the aftermath of a devasting 2010 earthquake. Featuring a multigenerational collective of Haitian musicians, the group is unified on a mission to honor the healing spirit of their culture and communicate a message of pride, strength, and hope to their countrymen and the world.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Mettavolution (ATO Records, 2019)
The Mexican dynamic-duo is back with a new release, Mettavolution. Five years in the making, Rodrigo y Gabriela have departed from their duet sound, adding in electric guitar and flourishes of synth to accent. A natural evolution in the twenty-two-year journey that is Rodrigo Y Gabriela. The album features six new tunes, with one cover of “Echoes,” a cover of the Pink Floyd track, which in length is the entire second half of Mettavolution. This album has more production feel to it, an epic studio recording that pushes the boundaries of their sound to the next level. The full-length album indeed still features the technical prowess the duet is so well known for and the sheer musicality of their music. With quick fingerpicking thrills and solid rhythmic attack, Mettavolution delights. The addition of slight flourishes of electrified accents does not detract from the core principal sound of Rodrigo Y Gabriela; in fact, Mettavolution packs a decisive punch.