Coming full circle, Angelique Kidjo returns to her Beninese roots for the star-studded Djin Djin album, whose title, which loosely translates as Seize the Day, aptly sums up the set and its themes. Djin Djin kicks off with the bright and breezy "Ae Ae," just the type of irrepressible pop/world-without-borders number that regularly takes all of Europe by storm, booming out of clubs from Iceland to Ibiza. It's so infectious that, even though the lyrics are apparently in Spanish, the entire continent joins in regardless, although few will grasp its serious message of the economic distress driving Africans onto European shores. Slightly more sophisticated but equally irresistible is "Papa," an urban club monster-to-be whose blistering rhythms vie with Kidjo's belted-out vocals, all wrapped in a supple arrangement that beautifully blends funk, soul, Afro-beat, and more. And then there's the funky, carnival-styled cover of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," which almost seems to celebrate rape and murder. Kidjo's anger is more evident on "Senamou," featuring old friends Amadou & Mariam, a song themed around the upper crust's bling-shackled life, and whose universal truths are reflected in an arrangement that combines African, Middle Eastern, funk, and rock elements. Carlos Santana's elegant guitar illuminates "Pearls," while Kidjo and Josh Groban valiantly try to give weight to Sade's bathos-bathed lyrics. Much better are the haunting title track, featuring Alicia Keys and Branford Marsalis; the smoldering "Salala," which twins the singer with Peter Gabriel; and the Afro-reggae "Sedjedo," where she's joined by Ziggy Marley. "Arouna" also has a reggae tinge around its Arab-esque arrangement, and celebrates individuality on a crowded planet. "Emma," in contrast, explores isolation, and does it with a country twang, a styling that also infects the bouncier "Mama Golo Papa." With the final track, "Lonlon," Kidjo completes the journey, across an inspired vocal version of Ravel's Bolero, a piece that itself broadly hinted at the ties between North and South, East and West, connections made even clearer here. With its many moods, fusions of styles, exploration of serious issues, uplifting themes, and alternately haunting or infectious melodies, Djin Djin is a stunning set, enhanced by the efforts of the fabulous musicians within and Tony Visconti's masterful production. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene
feat: Joss Stone
feat: Peter Gabriel
feat: Amadou & Mariam
feat: Ziggy Marley