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Sweet Sensations I: African Divas Sing…

09/08/2009
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“Do you think anyone else can do it ? Really, this dance has got something. Something…you can’t beat… Wombo Lombo.” Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo: The diva in a relaxed mood.

Angelique Kidjo: The diva in a relaxed mood.

Sweet Sensations I: Those fabulous African Divas Sing…
Music has always carried the day for me. When I am feeling upside down, inside out, happy as a clam or running around like a very busy bee, music sets the mood that transports me to someplace else; it grounds me.

I have always loved music and dance and it doesn’t take much, but definitely good tracks and syncopation, to engage me musically. While I do have memories of those musical periods of my life when I gravitated to songs that were romantic, tear jerking, thump you in the back beats, I have other fond memories of the days when Barry White crooned, Michael Jackson sizzled, Fela Anikulapo Kuti dazzled, Poison, Prince, The Police and The Beatles rocked and many other groups kept the music flowing.

Today, I want to revisit some of my favorite ladies from the African continent: My favorite Divas… Yeah, the ones many of us know and the ones some of us might have forgotten or never met. This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination, just my mini showcase with promises to gradually present a global tour of my favorite ladies of song.

Stay with me, will ya? In Sweet Sensations I and II, we will (in alphabetical order) meet in PART I: Angelique Kidjo, Asa, Cesaria Evora, Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, Folasade “Sade” Adu, and Judee. In PART II: M’bilia Bel, Miriam Makeba, Oumou Sangare, Patience Dabany, and Suzanna Lubrano
*To make best use of lyrics space, you may follow the lyrics all the way down on the left, and then follow the highlighted lyric parts all the way down on the right…*

“Music is love in search of a word.” Sidonie Gabrielle

Sweet Sensations I: African Divas Sing… Angelique Kidjo at a preformance.

Angelique Kidjo was born in Cotonou, Benin and started quite early, at age six, singing and dancing with her mother’s performing group. Her musical influences came from both her father’s Fon and mother’s Yoruba backgrounds. She grew up listening to both African and American music and became successful during her teen years by borrowing and adapting her repertoire from one of her favorite singers, Miriam Makeba.
Today, Angelique continues to thrill her fans worldwide with her well choreographed, highly energetic performances. She speaks and performs in four languages; Fon, French, Yoruba, and English. Below, she sings ~ Wombo Lombo

Angelique singing Wombo Lombo
*See Video Disclaimer Below

Lyrics to Wombo Lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo

Gbogbo ènyan n’ so houn kpé onindjo kan m’bè Have you ever seen this man moving?
Niboni mon léri ènikan odamin lohoun Do you think anyone else can do it ?
Ilé onindjo wa lègbè odo Really this dance has got something,
Inou gbèrèko oman tou oko akpèdja Something, no way you can’t beat it.

Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo

Gbogbo ènyan n’so kpé onindjo kan m’bè Have you ever seen this man moving ?
Niboni mon léri ènikan odamin lohoun Do you think anyone else can do it ?
Ilé onindjo wa lègbè odo Really this dance has got something
Inou gbèrèko oman tou oko akpèdja Something, no way you can’t beat it.

Ho ham ham ho ham Ho ham ham ho ham
Yélélé ho ham ham ho ham Yélélé ho ham ham ho ham
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo

Have you ever seen this man moving ? Really this dance has got something
Do you think anyone else can do it ? Something, no way you can’t beat it.
Wombo lombo Wombo lombo

“Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really control.” Tracy Chapman

Asa contemplating her unique sound. Musically, she is going somewhere fabulous.

Asa contemplating her unique sound. Musically, she is going somewhere fabulous.

Aṣa (Bukola Elemide), a young, up-and-coming Nigerian artist, was born in Paris, France where she lived till age two. Her family moved back to live in Lagos, Nigeria (West Africa) and Asa spent her formative years listening to a wide range of performers. Years later, she returned to Paris to develop her music which remains very popular in Europe and Africa. While her songs might be reminiscent of the soulful sounds of Tracy Chapman, Asa brings a sensibility to her music that includes African influences with a tinge of reggae and rap. Below, she sings ~ Fire On The Mountain.


Asa singing Fire on the Mountain
*See Video Disclaimer Below

Lyrics to Fire on the Mountain:
There is fire on the mountain, I wake up in the morning…
and nobody seems to be on the run. tell you what I see on my TV screen :
Oh there is fire on the mountain top, I see the blood of an innocent child,
and no one is’ah running. and everybody’s watching.

Now, I’m looking out of my window, What did they say to make you so blind,
and what do I see ? to your conscience and reason ?
I see an army of soldiers that’re Could it be love for your country,
marching across the street, heh… or for the gun you use in killing ? So…

There is fire on the mountain, Heh, Mister Loverman !
and nobody seems to be on the run. Can I get a chance to talk to you ?
Oh there is fire on the mountain top, ’cause you are fooling w/ a dead man’s corpse,
and no one is’ah running. and you don’t know what you do. Oh…
So little Lucy turns sixteen, For there is fire on the mountain,
and like the movie she’s been seeing, and nobody seems to be on the run
she has a lover in her daddy. Oh there is fire on the mountain top,
She can’t tell nobody… and no one is’ah running. Oh yes.
’till she makes the evening news.

One day the river will overflow,
and there’ll be nowhere for us to go;
and we will run, run…
wishing we had put out the fire, oh no…

You can’t copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.” Billie Holiday

Cesaria, The Barefoot Diva, pauses between songs to enjoy her beautiful flowers.

Cesaria, The Barefoot Diva, pauses between songs to enjoy her beautiful flowers.

Cesária Évora, the barefoot diva, was born in Cape Verde and is internationally known for the beautiful way she sings morna or dirges. Mornas are songs of sadness, sorrow and great yearning; they are sung very much the way Billie Holiday sang the blues. Cesaria spent her early years in an orphanage and soon found comfort singing in local bars. As her reputation and skill grew, local fans named her the “Queen of Mornas.” Cesaria added lyrics written by her uncle, B. Leza to her repertoire of sad, haunting songs and became very popular in the region.
As word of her musical prowess and fame spread, Cesaria went through a very difficult phase of her life. She stopped performing for 10 years and struggled with financial problems and alcoholism. Cesaria found her musical footing again and subsequent fame when she met José da Silva who encouraged her to move to Paris in 1988.
The albums, La Diva Aux Pieds Nus (The Barefoot Diva) and Miss Perfumado, brought Cesaria international acclaim. Her music continues to bring warmth and longing to the hearts of her fans worldwide. Even the Turkish President is a fan. The lyrics to Cesaria’s songs are often in Portuguese and the local Cape Verdean Creole. Below, she sings ~ Embarcacao accompanied by the beautiful Kayah


*See Video Disclaimer Below

Cesaria Evora singing Embarcacao with Kayah

Lyrics to Embarcacao: The Boat/Vessel (Translated)
Ai, ness mundo ca tem sô sofrimento There’s not only suffering in the world
Ma naquel olhar cheio di mágoa Looking into these sad eyes
Modê crê tão cedo na felecidade But how can you believe in happiness
Tcheu titá fogá na solidão That drown in tears alone

Ma na embarcação quta levá nôs vida On the boat of our fate
Um bom timonero nô ta desejá, pa guiá-no We need a skilled helmsman
Na temporal nô ta reá vela Who will manage to pull down the sails on time
Pa nô ca perdê na profundeza dum amargura And break us away from the embrace of starving waves of despair

Terra longe à vista é um doce promessa Probably the far off desired land
Ma qui ta desfazê nindiferença Will be the usual broken promise
Um sonho nascê na porto dilusão Because dreams are born in the haven of illusion
Fgi pa longe parcê um solução From which something keeps on chasing us away to the sea
Ma na ro ta incerta di nôs destino Our future has an unknown destination
Nô ta pô esperança num brisa mansa e constante In you, I hope for a tame and constant breeze
(2x)
Pintchi vela dnôs existencia But your wind, blows into the sails
E na paz levá, assim, nôs nau And lead our boat in peace
Pum horizonte cheio di luz e bonança Towards the horizon with peaceful and bright shores

“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” Ella Fitzgerald

Gigi chilling and posing for her fans.

Gigi chilling and posing for her fans.

Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, an Ethiopian singer/songwriter, was born in Chagni; a small town in the north-west region of the country. Her parents moved to Kenya when she was a child and then to San Francisco in 1998. She is married to Bill Laswell who helped produce her “GiGi” album. Gigi has a powerful voice with a range often compared to that of the great Ethiopian chanteuse — Aster Aweke. Gigi writes and sings her mellifluous songs in both Amharic and English and lives in NY. Below, she sings ~ Gud Fella


Gigi singing Gud Fella
*See Video Disclaimer Below

Lyrics to Gud Fella: Trouble is Brewing (Translated)
Thought I had given it up – heeded their words Where does he learn these things?
What brought it on again, that old forgotten love Takes me like candy then chews me like gum!
Trouble is imminent, oh where, Trouble, imminent trouble (2x)

Hear the trumpets of his soul Trouble brews, trouble in the air (2x)
I hear it from afar. This is my jubilee You’d think I care what they say
My love returns to me I only care about your love

Look how he moves, watch his swagger He stands so tall, he’s ripe no doubt
Killing me with his eyes, with his smile He tempts, but he can’t be eaten
How many times am I to die? To think there is such a vine
A frame so fine along his spine So fine (2x)

“When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don’t even notice.” Sarah Vaughan

Sade Adu, forever the sultry African Diva

Sade Adu, forever the sultry African Diva

New Sade Album cover ~ 'Soldier of Love' courtesy Sony Music via Billboard.com

Folasade “Sade” Adu was born in Ikere, Nigeria. Her Yoruba name means love confers your crown. Sade’s parents, a Nigerian lecturer and an English nurse, met in London. When she was quite young, a few months old, her mom moved back to England with the children; Sade and brother Banji. Sade’s love and artistic flair for fashion, dance and music exposed her to many creative people in the London scene and soon evolved from a chance singing opportunity with the Latin soul group Arriva, to the band Pride which became the phenomenally successful group – Sade.
Sade and her band of four have enjoyed a very rewarding music career since the debut of their first album Diamond Life in 1984. Sade’s sensual melodies and evocative songs make her a fan favorite and she remains one of the most loved international recording stars. She has a daughter (Ila) and her recent interview in the New York Times gives a full account of her life and creative efforts in the last several years. The latest update is that Sade’s new album ‘Soldier of Love’ dropped on February 8, 2010; all her fans are excited to learn this bit of great news and listen to her terrific new album. Below, she sings ~ Soldier of Love & The Sweetest Taboo


Sade Adu singing Soldier of Love
*See Video Disclaimer Below


Sade Adu singing The Sweetest Taboo
*See Video Disclaimer Below

Lyrics to The Sweetest Taboo: by Adu – Ditcham
If I tell you There’s a quiet storm
If I tell you now And it never felt like this before
Will you keep on There’s a quiet storm
Will you keep on loving me That is you
If I tell you There’s a quiet storm
If I tell you how I feel And it never felt this hot before
Will you keep bringing out the best in me Giving me something that’s taboo
You give me the sweetest taboo Sometimes I think you’re just too good for me
You’re giving me the sweetest taboo Too good for me

You give me the sweetest taboo I’d do anything for you, I’d stand out in the rain
That’s why I’m in love with you Anything you want me to do, don’t let it slip away
You give me the sweetest taboo Sometimes I think you’re just too good for me

There’s a quiet storm You give me the sweetest taboo
And it never felt like this before That’s why I’m in love with you
There’s a quiet storm You give me, you’re giving me the sweetest taboo
I think it’s you Too good for me
There’s a quiet storm You’ve got the biggest heart
And I never felt this hot before Sometimes I think you’re just too good for me
Giving me something that’s taboo Every day is Christmas, and every night is new years eve

Will you keep on loving me Will you keep on, will you keep on
Will you keep on, bringing out the best in me Bringing out the best in me

“As a singer I tried on all these hats, these voices, these clothes, and eventually out came me.” Carly Simon

Judee performing one of her afro dance songs in Switzerland

Judee performing one of her afro dance songs in Switzerland

Judith “Judee” Kisob, a native of Cameroon, grew up around the world and sees herself as an international citizen. Her father, a highly respected diplomat, traveled for many years with his family to new posts and Judee was exposed to cultures that continue to enrich and influence her music. A resident of Switzerland and a chemist/engineer by training, Judee found her musical calling after a very successful first public performance in 1990. Judee has created a unique sound that blends African beats with world music and she has a sensibility that makes her songs catchy and appealing to music lovers across genres. Judee sings mainly in English and French with a few other African dialects blended in from time to time. Below, she sings ~ To Mr. Mann

Judee singing “To Mr. Mann” and more…

Try this link for an MP3 playback
*See Video Disclaimer Below

Lyrics to “To Mr. Mann”
1. You got a girl, a pretty girl. 2. To have a secret love, never crossed ma’ mind
I have a man, a good man. But now my heart is staging quite a show
Still I come to you with ma’ grand, master plan. Let’s not even talk of further down, down below
You look at me; you’re all confused. You seem uneasy with my honesty.
My proposition, you do refuse. You may no longer even wanna see me
Heartache! You look at me with such dismay! Heartache! You look at me with such dismay!
Heartbreak! Cos’ you don’t feel the same way. Heartbreak! Cos’ you don’t feel the same way.

CHORUS: CHORUS:
Don’t hold it against me Don’t hold it against me
If’ I say you’ve got sex appeal Cos’ I live for moments spent with you
That’s just the way I really truly feel. Hello kisses on my cheeks from you
Don’t hold it against me Don’t hold it against me
If I say I want you all the time Cos’ I whisper your name all day long
And still hope one day you’ll be mine. Ma’ need for you is just much too strong.
All you see is extra baggage Don’t hold it against me, please, baby,
To your simple way of life Don’t hold it against me.
Promise, I won’t cause any damage I’d love you as a lover
That would cause you pain and strife But I really need you more as a friend.
I care for you too much and your big heart is just too beautiful So don’t hold it against me

CHORUS:
Don’t hold it against me Don’t hold it against me, please, please baby,
If I say there’s somethin’ special ’bout you Don’t hold it against me
That makes me wanna get freaky wit’chu. I’d love you as a lover
Don’t hold it against me But I really need you more as a friend
When you talk I just watch your mouth So don’t hold it against me
I’m in a trance; don’t know north from south. Please…

Hope you enjoy Part I. Check out Part II. Let me know what you think of the list I have shared. Share your list with me and if you know any up and coming divas from the continent you’d like me to meet, do share. Thank you! Merci!

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER FOR VIDEOS***
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

Photo Credits: Various Newsmedia publications, Angelique Kidjo, Wikipedia, and other sources TBD.
Sade Adu: Album cover ‘Soldier of Love’ ~ courtesy Sony Music via Billboard.com

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Goz permalink
    10/08/2009 11:53 am

    You know Mbilia Bel, Asa, Oumou Sangare? I’m so impressed! Can’t wait to read the rest of your write-up… Cheers!

    • 25/11/2009 2:54 am

      Thanks Goz for your feedback and support. This was a lot of fun to do and I am still working on Part III for 2010. Stop by anytime with suggestions and ideas on new names to add to the list. 😉

  2. black hattitude permalink
    14/10/2009 8:56 pm

    Hi,

    Thank you for the great quality of your blog, every time i come here, I’m amazed.

    • 25/11/2009 2:53 am

      Hello BH,
      Thanks for your visit too and let me know when you come across someone you think should be added to my growing list for Part III.
      Best wishes to you! 😉

  3. Slikha permalink
    27/05/2011 9:13 am

    Bring back that vibe to the people big up to yourselves thats pretty cool of you to do that

    • 27/05/2011 9:53 pm

      Thank you for your feedback Slikha… I’m with you on that one! 😉

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