I once had a friend who could identify any song within the first four bars. I’m just the opposite: I can listen to a song for nearly sixty seconds, scratching my head and wondering, Why does this sound so familiar? Which was the reaction I had as I listened to Angelique Kidjo sing Mon Feran E. It wasn’t until she switched from Yoruba to English that I began to laugh. It’s a cover of the song Aretha Franklin made famous, Baby I Love You.
Aretha’s version of the song is iconic, and it’s hard for any other performer to measure up. But Kidjo and her sister voice on this song, Dianne Reeves, a jazz icon in her own right, give Aretha a run for her money.
West African music came to the Americas with slavery and ultimately gave us the swooping, soaring, growling, caressing sound of soul music. And in this song, soul has gone back home to the place that inspired it. It is a call and response that is happy and heartbreaking at the same time.
Any Angelique Kidjo fans out there? Let me know!