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Angélique Kidjo and Ibrahim Maalouf in the service of a legendary meeting – RFI Musique





“Queen of Sheba” album by Angélique Kidjo and Ibrahim Maalouf.

© DR

Studio version of the show presented on stage before the Covid-19 pandemic, Queen of Sheba has a symbolic dimension: behind the evocation of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, it is the marriage of Africa and the Middle East that the Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo and the Franco-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf intend to celebrate .

List the respective trophies won during their career by the two protagonists of Queen Of Sheba has something to impress: five Grammy Awards for Angélique Kidjo; two Victoires de la musique, two Victoires du jazz and a César for Ibrahim Maalouf. But it is through another prism, less formal and closer to their personalities, that it is more appropriate to look at this common musical adventure materialized by an album.

Both belong to the category of hyperactive musicians, on the verge of ubiquity, moving with rare agility from one project to another, sometimes even diametrically opposed, without ever getting lost. Better: with them, it always seems to make sense, both in substance and in form, as if their presence here and there was natural, inevitable, predestined. A role of catalysts, of “movers” of lines, of border breakers, on permanent watch and at 360 degrees. With them, the notion of limit is not even conceivable. That of the challenge, on the other hand, is omnipresent. A driving force.

Two versatile artists

From the 70’s Latin register of Celia Cruz, diva of the Fania All Stars of Ray Barretto and Johnny Pacheco, to the afropop-afrobeat of Mother Nature (with Yemi Alade and Burna Boy), via an adaptation of the album Remain in Light of Talking Heads, the Beninese singer has traveled the musical planet in all directions in recent years – with equal success.

Ditto for the Franco-Lebanese jack-of-all-trades trumpeter, never where you expect him (for his almost discographic debut at 22, he co-signed with an organist the album O Jesus, may my joy remain) who once again offered the AccorHotel Arena de Bercy in Paris and its 12,000 spectators in April, after a tribute album to Dalida, while responding to requests from Matthieu Chedid, Melody Gardot and David Walters…

It was at the time of his album devoted to Oum Kalhtoum, one of the most famous voices in the Arab world, that he was contacted by Angélique Kidjo, aware that it was time to take the initiative so that their parallel trajectories can converge. The one who is regularly cited among the most influential African women worked on a female figure of antiquity: the Queen of Sheba (Sheba, in English), a kingdom located on both sides of the Red Sea at the level of the Strait of Bab el-Manded, in the current territories of Ethiopia and Yemen. The legend of his meeting with Solomon, the third king of Israel, is an episode recounted in the key texts of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions, with its variants. She would have given him riddles – like the Sphinx in Greek mythology – which he would have solved, thus giving rise to a reciprocal love.

Interbreeding

The story, adapted among other things in a Hollywood peplum, inspired Angélique, who saw in it a meeting between Africa and the Middle East. To celebrate it musically, Ibrahim was the perfect partner. From the seven texts she wrote in Yoruba and which relate to as many enigmas, he composed music that embraces different cultures, beyond jazz and African groove to which one would sometimes be tempted to reduce them.

The assembly was first tested in live, with symphony orchestras. Following the few performances given in 2018 at a handful of prestigious festivals, such as Jazz à Juan or Jazz à Vienne, they extended their talk in the studio, with no less than fifty speakers: violinists, cellists, double bassists, choir… Unclassifiable but above all with high added musical value, and imbued with this sincere energy that both possess, the 40 minutes of Queen of Sheba reflect as closely as possible the approach of the two artists: to bring out new spaces, lands of interbreeding.

Angelique Kidjo, Ibrahim Maalouf Queen of Sheba (Mi’ster) 2022

Angélique Kidjo official website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Official website of Ibrahim Maalouf / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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