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Angélique Kidjo Wants To "Bring Rock Back To Africa" With Her New Talking Heads Album

The Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer is re-imagining the Talking Heads' classic album, Remain In Light.

When most people think of music originating from the African continent, rock isn't exactly what comes to mind.

But Angélique Kidjo was quick to remind us in a recent interview with Rolling Stone that "rock music came from the blues and thus from Africa." With her newest album, Remain in the Light, Kidjo looks to re-imaging the landmark Talking Heads album, which was widely considered to be one of the top albums of the 1980s and was deeply influenced by Fela Kuti's afrobeat.


While Kidjo's album will be released on June 8, you can watch the video for its first single, "Born Under Punches" now.

For her rendition, Kidjo partners with renowned producer Jeff Bhasker, who has worked with Rihanna, Kanye West, Drake and Jay-Z (to name only a few). This album also sees her collaborating with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Blood Orange and Tony Allen, with artwork conceptualized by Kerry James Marshall.

Together, they help Kidjo peel back the classic 80s rock sound to reveal and amplify the West African rhythm that anchored the original album.

"As Remain in Light was influenced by the music of my continent, I want to pay back the homage and create my own African take on the Talking Heads' songs," Kidjo mentions. "Now is the time to bring rock back to Africa, connect our minds, and bring all our sounds to a new level of sharing and understanding."

Check out the album's lead single, "Born Under Punches," below.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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