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ANGELIQUE KIDJO : This Parisian Singer's African Roots Run Deep

April 17, 1994|DON SNOWDEN

Angelique Kidjo, the fiery singer from Benin, is fed up with critics who charge that using funk and other Western pop elements makes her music less African.

"Most of these people never get out of the country to see what's happening in my continent," says Kidjo, who performs at LunaPark on Saturday. "Nobody can even tell me what is the type of music that is played in my country. . . . I think it's the nostalgia of colonization. Music doesn't belong to anybody--any African artist knows that even in our traditional music, there is nothing pure."

Kidjo's 1991 album "Logozo" yielded a pair of East Coast dance-club hits that spread her popularity beyond the usual African pop audience. Her new "Aye" album again finds Kidjo's politically pointed lyrics (sung in the Fon, Yoruba and Mina languages) accompanied by an African-funk-dance hybrid produced by David Z (ex-Prince) and Will Mowat of Soul II Soul.

"The more I can meet different cultures and different people, the more I am happy, because it's when I realize how strong my roots are," Kidjo explains. "They always come out entire, in any kind of music that would surround it."

Kidjo released her first album in Africa in 1980 and moved to Paris later that year. She recorded five albums and toured Europe extensively with a jazz/African fusion band--work she continued after forming her own group in 1987. Her "Parakou" album for a small French label in 1989 caught the ear of Island Records President Chris Blackwell, and she signed with the company in 1990.

Kidjo lives in Paris with her husband and year-old daughter, but her love for Africa remains.

"I'm not an African European--I'm a deep African woman," she says. "Every year I go back. It's like I reach a point where I need oxygen. I feel like I'm gasping for breath.

"When you are born in Africa and live in Europe, nothing can change that, ever. When you are raised in that rich culture, that rich tradition, it doesn't matter how many things you give me here. Nothing is going to replace that."

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