Angélique Kidjo vs. Talking Heads

Having been somewhat overwhelmed by submissions (just for a change), I am really glad not to have missed out on this.

 

Angélique Kidjo, the acclaimed singer from Benin, will shortly release her take on the Talking Heads’ seminal 1980 album, Remain In Light. Produced by Brian Eno, the album drew on West African sounds, and featured ‘Once In A Lifetime,’ which would become the band’s first hit in the UK, helped by an innovative video.

Angélique worked with 2015 Grammy Producer of the Year Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Rolling Stones, Beyonce) for her version of ‘Remain in Light,’ which brings the landmark 1980 album by Talking Heads full circle, back to the sounds of West Africa that inspired the original.  It features appearances by Ezra Koenig, Blood Orange, Tony Allen, Antibalas Horns, Angélique’s longtime guitarist Dominic James, and Magatte Sow (percussionist for the Black Panther film score). Visual artist Kerry James Marshall collaborated on the album artwork.

On her own version of the “Once In A Lifetime” video, Angelique said: ” In the 1970s, under the dictatorship in my home country of Benin, it was really difficult to find music to listen to from the rest of the world. When I went into exile in Paris in 1983, I discovered so much new music, and among them was the song “Once In A Lifetime”. Initially, it felt strange to me. People said it was Rock and Roll, but it felt African somehow. When I performed in New York in 1992 at SOB’s, David Byrne was the first American artist to come see my show. Many years later, I discovered that Brian Eno and The Talking Heads had been influenced by Fela Kuti and studied John Miller Chernoff’s book African Rhythm and African Sensibility about the power of African music. “Once In A Lifetime” was released at the start of the Reagan presidency, and you feel the anguish and anger in its lyrics. I feel the same tension in today’s political climate. Bringing “Once In A Lifetime” back to the African continent, with the help of superstar producer Jeff Bhasker, Black Panther’s percussionist Magatte Sow and guitarist Dominic James, feels so right today.”

Angelique’s version of the album is released on June 8. You can see the video for her version of ‘Once In A Lifetime’ below. It was directed by 25 year old Antoine Paley, a student at Luc Besson’s Cité Du Cinema film school.

 

…and as a bonus, the video for ‘Born Under Punches’

Album Review -Brian Eno

Brian Eno – ‘Music For Installations.’

This year, amongst the many significant anniversaries for various albums (The Man Machine, Beggars Banquet, Deserter’s Songs – and a Beatles’ album) is forty years since Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. The first in his four-part ambient series, it wasn’t the first ever ambient album (a discussion for another time) but rather, the first ever album to be intentionally created as ambient music. Its long shadow is cast over this release.

Music For Installations really is what it says on the, uh, tin. Whilst some of this has been available before, over the course of 6CDs, it brings together some of Eno’s work for his Installations since 1985. His acclaimed works have been exhibited all over the globe – from the Venice Biennale and the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg to Beijing’s Ritan Park and the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Rather sheepishly, this writer has yet to see or experience these installations first hand – something I imagine will apply to a significant number of other listeners – the music therefore must stand on its own merits.

Generally speaking, it does. Much of this is previously unreleased, or only released in limited form (it’s the first time any of it has seen the light of day on vinyl). It opens with the gorgeous twenty minute ‘Kazakhstan’ and ‘The Ritan Bells’ which divorced from their original context, give the listener the chance to either be drawn to focus upon the music or drift off. It says much about the quality of Eno’s music that taking it at face value, there is enough substance to provide a worthwhile listening experience. ‘Unnoticed Planet’ is another personal highlight, taken from the sixth CD.

As well as the aforementioned Airports, parallels could be drawn with other Eno works such as Discreet Music and Apollo, though these are single disc recordings. It must be said that the work is great listening in small doses – but even over the course of a whole CD it can be a bit much. There should surely be no questioning the man’s talent and his significant contributions to music over nearly fifty years (that’s very definitely contributions plural, by the way). The phrase ‘for completists only’ usually infers a below-par work; in this case, it’s likely to be more to do with quantity and price rather than quality.

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Music For Installations is out now on UMC.
Click here to hear ‘Kazakhstan’