ANGELIQUE KIDJO at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, April 4). $30. 416-323-1251.
since nothing angelique kidjo has tried so far has launched the vivacious Benin belter into the international superstar stratum, an Africa-meets-Brazil experiment must've seemed like a reasonable gamble for her new Black Ivory Soul (Columbia/Sony) disc. That's not just because the Afro-Brazilian sound happens to still be the flavour of the moment in many dance clubs around the world, but also because Kidjo has a real connection to Brazil. At least that's what she discovered on her first trip to Bahia.
"I felt the twist in my belly I get when I go home to Benin," says Kidjo over the phone from New York. "It was very odd, because I never get that sensation any other place. But the smells are the same in Bahia -- the trees, the plants, the food -- everything is just like in Ouida.
"Although I don't speak Portuguese, I went to a Candomblé ceremony and understood everything -- they were singing in my language. It truly was like being at home."
Composing and recording the music of Black Ivory Soul with Brazilian musicians, chiefly future/primitive rhythm scientist Carlinhos Brown and guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria, brings a pronounced Bahian swing to the jams that's unmistakable. However, Bill Laswell's "reproduction and mix translation" smooths out the final results.
Apart from an incongruous album-closing cover of Serge Gainsbourg's Ces Petits Riens sung in French, the only other jarring wrinkle in the project is the guest vocal from frat idol Dave Matthews on the song Iwoya.
The celebrity cameo does have the appearance of a cynical gimmick to tap into the enormous jam band audience. Kidjo insists that an album sales boost wasn't the motivation.
"I didn't do it for that reason," she snaps. "I toured with Dave constantly last summer, and it was then that I asked him to be a part of this album.
"Iwoya was a beautiful song, and I wanted to share it with him. He felt the spirit of the music very strongly, as I did, and that's what made it a good collaboration.
"If it were done just for commercial purposes it wouldn't sound true -- it wouldn't work." firstname.lastname@example.org