Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo is from the African country of Benin, but don’t expect her to warble her country’s traditional folkloric songs. As she’s bluntly said, “There is a kind of cultural racism going on where people think that African musicians have to make a certain kind of music….I’m not going to play traditional drums and dress like bush people….I don’t ask Americans to play country music.” So what does Kidjo like to sing? For over a decade, it’s been an international blend of lite funk, disco, Santana-derived rock, and, yes, African-rooted music, with jazzy vocal touches and lyrics largely in Fon, Yoruba, and French. Such efforts have sometimes been musically uneven—no matter where you’re from, if you’re gonna cover “Voodoo Chile,” you’ve gotta offer more than bombastic vocals and dull drum programming. For last year’s Black Ivory Soul, Kidjo traveled to Brazil, a country where slaves from Benin (referred to as “black ivory”) were once taken. There, she wrote songs with Bahian percussionist Carlinhos Brown before returning to New York to team up with producer Bill Laswell and a cast including Roots drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Congolese guitarist Dominic Kanza. The resulting disc has its own ups and downs: The slick R&B ballads and Dave Matthews duet sound a bit generic, but the Serge Gainsbourg cover and collaborations with Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria are beautiful. Kidjo performs with Kaki King at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, August 14, at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $25. (703) 218-6500. (Steve Kiviat)