Artist: Angélique Kidjo
Label & Year: Savoy Records, 2014
By Kagiso Mnisi
Angélique Kidjo's gives a wide open bosom for all to receive a warm embrace in the album Eve. She is vocally strong and is accompanied by a pantheon of gifted artists such as Christian McBride, Lionel Loueke and choirs from her homeland, Benin. Eve is named after Kidjo's mother, which is an add-on that automatically gives a nod to the maternal spirit and all its wholesomeness. Keeping with the principles of Afro-communal existence that place 'mother' and the supreme being at heart of any daily endeavor, 'Eve' is a song testifying to a birth of humanity and universalism.
The album's starter, 'M’Baamba (Kenyan Song)', is a call for all to gather around for the story about to be told. It is a persevering and charged opener, the song percussively sets the tone for the journey ahead. Rich in both sound and story, 'M’Baamba' translates to “Hands in hands, we’re able to create a chain of sisterhood”, which further puts emphasis of the universal strength of women.
Secondly is the moderately voodooesque 'Shango Wa', which evokes Yoruban mythology with its uncontainable groove. The legend of old behind the track tells of 'Shango Wa', the Yoruban god who identifies as both sexes. It signifies oneness through call and response which is the bedrock of African story telling.
In as much as Eve is a well-rounded offering, the feature of Asa in the song 'Eva' falls short of seamlessly connecting to the entire album. 'Eva' starts off gradually then goes onto mushroom in size in terms of production. However, the fractured nature in which both musicians go at it cannot be helped but glared at. It ends up being a rattling cog in the entire organic nature of the album.
Eve's interludes are also pivotal to the story telling process, for they too serve to echo nuggets of wisdom for a short time period. The interlude 'Bomba' features Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij on guitar and immerses the listener into a vortex of soul and afro-groove.
With Patrick Dillett at the helm of production, the album's narrative evokes the old as much as it stays on par with contemporary sound. The gem 'Blewu', is a lament/weeping with a far reaching echo, enough to awaken Kemetan deities. When honing in on a track such as 'Kulumba' which features Dr. John, one is almost teleported to a mid-western saloon cum southern speakeasy through the nimble keys which are well buffered by an Afro-sensibility. Eve is a tender work of art that feeds from the womb of the mother continent as an age old doyenne that nourishes and provides for all of humanity.
Eve is Kidjo's way of perpetually moving forth to inspire the global audience. Diverse as always, she champions the cause of women and by default of humanity. This album finds itself amid times of extreme warring, fundamentalism and outright misogyny, it therefore places itself in a position to ask worthy questions to the human race. It asks the human race to reflect - as a mother would to her children.