Angélique Kidjo: Mother Nature review – hip-hop exuberance meets African tradition | Angélique Kidjo

With a booming population that is overwhelmingly young, it’s only a matter of time before west Africa produces a global pop star as universally renowned as Beyoncé or Prince. When that happens, she or he will owe a big debt to Benin’s Angélique Kidjo who, now aged 60, has been a trailblazer for the continent over the course of 14 albums.

Kidjo has always been about inclusivity, whether in her pan-African songs, or with numerous collaborators, who include Philip Glass and Indonesia’s Anggun, or in her past two albums – her reworking of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light in 2018 and 2019’s Celia, a tribute to the late salsa diva Celia Cruz. On Mother Nature she returns home, collaborating with an array of young voices on an exuberant album couched in contemporary R&B and hip-hop, but laced with traditional flavours.

Its focus is both local and universal. Dignity, alongside Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, demands an end to police brutality – surely the first time “reciprocal” has been a chorus shout-out – while the title track addresses the climate crisis. Free & Equal, featuring Sampa the Great, returns to the principles of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence. Empowerment, unity and joy combine to catchy effect, with the exceptional Kidjo now leader of a new generation.

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