La Vida Es un Carnaval
A preeminent singer not only in pan-African and world music but in Latin and pop generally, Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo first heard the music of Cuban salsa legend Celia Cruz as a teenager in 1974, when Cruz toured the continent after performing in conjunction with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s famous Rumble in the Jungle. Celia, in other words, has had some time to germinate. Kidjo’s arrangements expectedly play up the latent Africanness in Cruz’s music: the twinkling Congolese-style guitar of “Cucala,” the Ethio-jazz slant of “La Vida Es un Carnaval,” the tight Nigerian-style groove of “Toro Mata,” courtesy of longtime Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen. The result isn’t just a novel tribute to Cruz, but a sketch of an Afro-Cuban cultural exchange going back to the slave trade—a complicated legacy, but one that continues to produce some of the most beautiful music in the world.