Words by Nigel Williamson
Dedicated to ‘the women of Africa, to their resilience and their beauty,’ Kidjo’s tenth studio album features the voices of women’s choirs from ten different villages in Benin and Kenya, singing in half a dozen different languages. But don’t go thinking this is some kind of worthy field recording. Their voices swoop and swell thrillingly in response to Kidjo’s own lithe vocals over dynamic Afro-American grooves provided by the likes of Dr John, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and a heavyweight New York jazz-rock rhythm section of Steve Jordan and Christian McBride.
The results are funky as hell and the manner in which the women’s voices fit soulfully and seamlessly into the sound is testament to the brilliant production skills of David Byrne’s favourite studio wizard, Patrick Dillett. In places the record gloriously evokes an African equivalent of the Staple Singers during their majestic 1970s Stax period. The Nigerian singer Asa duets with Kidjo over the bubbling electro beats of ‘Eva’, the Kronos Quartet reprise the brilliance of their previous collaboration with Rokia Traoré on ‘Ebile’ and the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg add a perfectly judged orchestral backing to the lovely ‘Awalole’. Bold, visionary and in places quite spine-tingling, Eve goes down as one of the peaks of Kidjo’s impressive career.
TRACK TO TRY: ‘Eva’