On her 1998 album, "Oremi," Angelique Kidjo highlighted the links between American R&B and West African pop; her 2002 disc, "Black Ivory Soul," made explicit the connection between Brazil's Bahia region and the Yoruba tribe of her native Benin. On her new album, "Oyaya!" (the Yoruba word for "joy"), Kidjo turns her attention to the music of the Caribbean, drawingo ut Africa's links with not just Cuban music but also Puerto Rican bomba, Trinidadian calypso, Dominican merengue, Jamaican ska and Guadeloupean zouk.
"Oyaya!" is the best of the three, because producers Steve Berlin (the saxophonist in Los Lobos) and Alberto Salas (the pianist in the expatriate band Cuba L.A.) strip away the Europop affectations and return Kidjo to a rootsier sound. This allows her to get closer to the place on the family tree where the Caribbean branch split off from the African trunk and allows her big voice to relax and sink into the rhythms instead of trying to overwhelm them.
On the calypso-flavored "Congoleo," Abou Sylla's balafon mingles with Salas's organ, and Kidjo supplies the bridging lilt to her vocal. On "Congo Habanera," Yoruban bata drums are reinforced by Berlin's baritone sax, and Kidjo allows the salsa rhythms to carry her carefree singing away.
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club with Femi Kuti. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Angelique Kidjo, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8129. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)