Review: Angelique Kidjo and Ibeyi

 Praying To Ancestors by Miguel “Anga” Diaz Echu Migwa, Ibae Bae, T’orun.

November was such a busy month for me in London, but thankfully I had some time to go and see some wonderful acts. I also was really lucky to be able to attend the BBC Radio 4  Mastertapes with Angelique Kidjo, at the studio in West London. I have always been such a big fan of Angelique Kidjo. She is not only an amazing and charismatic performer, but she speaks her mind, tells it like it is, and is obviously driven by a deeper mission than just to sing. The Mastertapes interview was a real insight into her life, philosophy and the credit she gives to her elders and ancestors for her role in life.

Her respect for mother earth and her views of consumerism and the fact that she does not censor what she says is totally inspiring, addressing biased and badly informed perspectives on Africa is also, of course, high on her agenda.  It was also beautiful just to hear her singing acoustically with just a guitar.

Blewu

She speaks and sings in many different languages and represents both sides of her heritage; her father is Yoruba and her mother Fon. She writes songs in whichever language comes to mind and inspires her. She has learned not to mess with inspiration. When she signed with Chris Blackwell, one of the things she first she made clear to him before signing a contract was that she wanted to have total artistic freedom. No one was going to tell her what to sing, and how to dress. She is certainly also an inspiration to all female singers. You don’t have to appear half naked or sing what you are told a la X factor to make an impact.

Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo

Angelique fills huge theatres and plays concerts all over the world and has never compromised.  You can still hear the edited program looking at Angelique’s life and recording career, please have a look at the podcast:

Two days after I attended the mastertapes interview, I went to see her live at the Southbank in London. I had seen her before and as a performer she never disappoints. What was also interesting is that Ibeyi were supporting her. Seeing them perform just before Angelique was very interesting. Angelique is so experienced, she effortlessly commands a stage, and communicates with the audience. Nothing beats age and experience. Seeing Ibeyi live was interesting. They are so young and lack what Angelique has in terms of performing experience. The venue was also huge and I felt that perhaps the venue and circumstance had overwhelmed Ibeyi somewhat, however they came across as charming, talented and clearly humble and I hope that after their constant performing over the months to come that they learn more about performing live without loosing all the innocence and charm and humbleness that they possess.  Interesting enough, Angelique talks about performing live from a young age and then later on when coming to live in Europe, having to learn how to work as a musician in a studio. Here is Side B of the Podcast.

With Ibeyi the situation is reversed. We are in the age of technology. Ibeyi’s use of video and technology in their music is obviously a great medium for them and has captured a following  all over the world.

This is ” Oya” . Some of the electronic effects remind me of what their father did in his debut album which was cutting edge and innovative at the time.

Oya

I have been very interested at how Ibeyi are being packaged and sold. Interesting that they are sometimes referred to as dark soul. I am not sure why. The fact that they honour their ancestral roots and Sing about the experience of losing their father is not nor should it be referred to as dark. Their energy is not dark on stage indeed it was joyful and their little song to Ibeyi at the end of the set was really beautiful. I hope this label does not stick.

Ibeyi are the legacy of Miguel “Anga” Diaz who I knew personally. Anga was  ordained to Elegua, his debut Solo album was named after his Ocha name. Here is his his tribute to John Coltrane’s ” A Love Supreme” which celebrated 50 years just recently.

One of the most moving numbers that Ibeyi sing, is “ Mama Says” it is an expression of what it is to lose a close family member as a child and the impact that the loss makes on the children. Family dynamics in the  West are impacted in such a difficult way with the death of a family member. Having been through this experience myself, I found the song incredibly moving and so honest and open.

Ibeyi are going to be massive, they will be coming back to the UK in February where they will be promoting their new album which was recorded in London. I look forward to seeing them perform again, hoping that they will have learned more about performing over the last few months of their tour. Have a look at their new website:

http://www.ibeyi.fr/

Finally it is fitting to end with a tribute to the river. Mama Oshun!

 

 

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