By Kory Grow
Angelique Kidjo transforms a dismal office into a free-form dance party in the video for her cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime." Three office workers play with their phones when Kidjo suddenly appears on their screens. The music kicks in, prompting the trio to dance. Kidjo's contribution is colorful as she sings and dances in front of psychedelic backdrops. By the end of the clip, which French filmmaker Antoine Paley directed, everyone's wet from the sprinkler system and in love.
The song is part of Kidjo's complete head-to-toe reworking of the Heads' classic 1980 album, Remain in Light. Throughout each song, the singer, who hails from Benin, played up the original songs' West African influence. For the recording, she worked with producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Mark Ronson), as well as Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, bassist Pino Palladino and others. She also added new lyrics to each of the songs in African languages like Fon and Yoruba that respond to David Byrne's verses. For "Once in a Lifetime," she added words about people's basic right to live.
"In the 1970s, under the dictatorship in my home country of Benin, it was really difficult to find music to listen to from the rest of the world," she said in a statement. "When I went into exile in Paris in 1983, I discovered so much new music, and among them was the song 'Once in a Lifetime.' Initially, it felt strange to me. People said it was rock & roll, but it felt African somehow.
"When I performed in New York in 1992 at SOB's, David Byrne was the first American artist to come see my show. Many years later, I discovered that Brian Eno and the Talking Heads had been influenced by Fela Kuti and studied John Miller Chernoff’s book African Rhythm and African Sensibility about the power of African music. 'Once in a Lifetime' was released at the start of the Reagan presidency, and you feel the anguish and anger in its lyrics. I feel the same tension in today's political climate. Bringing 'Once in a Lifetime' back to the African continent, with the help of superstar producer Jeff Bhasker, Black Panther's percussionist Magatte Sow and guitarist Dominic James, feels so right today."
Kidjo has a handful of North American dates booked for the summer, some of which will feature performances of Remain in Light.
Angelique Kidjo Tour Dates
July 28 - Katonah, NY @ Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
August 6 - Highland Park, IL @ Ravinia*
August 7 - Vienna, VA @ Wolf Trap*
August 9 - Denver, CO @ Denver Botanic Gardens*
August 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre*
September 27 - New York, NY @ Central Park SummerStage*
* Remain in Light performance