Angélique Kidjo Remains In Light

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Generally speaking, I have mixed feelings about artists interpreting entire albums by other artists. To be fair, I enjoyed Ryan Adams' handling of Taylor Swift's 1989 more than I thought I would. And some of Phish's Halloween sets are fun (oh, come on, you know Phish is talented). But I could not be more excited about Angélique Kidjo making the Talking Heads classic Remain In Light her own. 

In 1983 Angélique Kidjo moved from Benin to Paris. Kidjo recalls that time with NPR:

And when I arrived in Paris, I was determined to catch up with the music I didn't have. I became a music junkie. I went to a party with some friends of mine and somebody started playing the song of the Talking Heads called "Once in a Lifetime" and everybody was standing and dancing weird, and me, I was grooving. And I told them, "This is African music," and they go, "Hell no, this is rock and roll. You Africans are not sophisticated enough to do this kind of music."

The Talking Heads had already made a name for themselves, rising from the New York scene with a fusion of punk, art-school rock, funk, avant-garde and world music. For their fourth album, the band openly drew from Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and African polyrhythms. The band is even reported to have told people that if they really wanted to understand the band's ambition with the album, go listen to Fela. 

Kidjo has stripped away some of the 80's sheen from the album and brought the Afrobeat influence to full bloom. The music is vibrant and joyful even while many of the lyrics take on added poignancy considering the struggles of Africa and the music grows in urgency. NPR says: 

Kidjo's interpretation feels more legitimate and offers an unfiltered representation of the Motherland's polyrhythmic dance. Take "Listening Wind" as an example: above a gentle mix of djembe drums and oscillating synths, Kidjo tells the story of a man named Mojique, who sees first-hand the colonization of his village. "He sees the foreigners in growing numbers," she sings. "He sees the foreigners in fancy houses." There's a measured sadness to Kidjo's voice, as if she's living the trauma herself.

This is where the album succeeds. Kidjo uses well-known source material but makes it her own; adding depth and perspective. And moving your booty. Watch the video for "Born Under Punches:"

Watch the video for "Once In A Lifetime:"

Artist Spotlight: Letta Mbulu

This artist spotlight originally posted January 18, 2019 on the dearly missed Global Elite Music Radio Podcast Supershow site.


One of the joys of doing a project like the Global Elite Music Radio Podcast Supershow is discovering new artists we didn’t yet know we loved.

We featured Letta’ Mbulu’s track “Kukuchi” on Episode 32 of our very own podcast. We were so smitten with Mbulu’s music that we wanted to give you, the fine people of the Internet, more Mbulu. So we put together an hour-long mix of some of our current favorite tracks.

If you don’t yet know Mbulu, allow us to introduce you.

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Letta Mbulu (pronounced "let-ah" "em-boo-loo") was born in Soweto, South Africa in 1942 and remains a towering figure in South African music. Doug Payne says in his online biography of Mbulu:

Still in her teens, Letta began touring outside of Africa with the musical "King Kong," which ran for a year in England following a highly successful two-year run in South Africa. When the tour ended, she returned to South Africa but soon the policies of Apartheid were to force her to leave her native land for the U.S.A.

She arrived in the United States in 1965 and quickly befriended such fellow South African exiles in New York City as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa - all alumni of the "King Kong" musical. Performances at New York's famed Village Gate club began to attract attention to her talents, particularly from jazz legend Cannonball Adderley, who invited her to tour with him (which she did throughout the remainder of the decade). 

To put Mbulu’s career and influence into perspective, Strange Sounds From Beyond says:

the South African vocalist released her first LP in the same year The Beatles released The White Album. She is the towering figure of South African singing – the proud matriarch of a strange, soulful, synth-powered hybrid of US and South-African influences. Along with the 12 LPs carrying her own name, she’s worked with jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, calypso icon Harry Belafonte, and even Michael Jackson on “Liberian Girl”.

According to South African History, Mbulu was also an accomplished actress who appeared “in the film Roots for which she received an Emmy award. Her other screen appearances include A Warm December with Sidney Pottier and The Colour Purple. She is also a founding member of the South African Artists United (SAAU) an organisation which was established in 1986.”

Allmusic quotes Quincy Jones as saying: "Mbulu is the roots lady, projecting a sophistication and warmth which stirs hope for attaining pure love, beauty, and unity in the world."

If you don’t know her yet, it is our pleasure to introduce you to the music of Letta Mbulu. If you already know her, please enjoy this mix and we’d love to hear your favorite tracks.


  1. Hareje *

  2. Kukuchi #

  3. Noma Themba *

  4. Jigijela (Don't Throw Stones) @

  5. Zimkile *

  6. I Need Your Love @

  7. Mamami #

  8. Aredze ^

  9. Afro Texas *

  10. Ade #

  11. Qonqoza (Knock) @

  12. Kube *

  13. Gumba-Gumba #

  14. Macongo @

  15. Olu Ati Ayo #

  16. Melodi (Sounds of Home) @

  17. Never Leave You *

Though there are many terrific albums by Letta Mbulu, for this mix, I focused on the following four albums (use the symbols to see which song is found on each album):

@ Letta (Chisa, 1970)

* Naturally (Fantasy, 1972)

^ I’ll Never Be The Same (1973)

# Letta Mbulu Sings/Free Soul (2005)