Renovated Chicago Station Has the Art of DJ’ing at Its Heart

— News — Editor

As was reported in various publications this week, the $280 million renovation of Chicago’s Red Line 95th Street Station, has placed DJ’ing and music of black origin firmly at its heart.

Thanks to Theaster Gates’ installation, An Extended Song of Our People, a broadcast studio and DJ booth has been incorporated into the fabric of the building and will produce varied audio programming for travellers on the Red Line. ‘Residents can get a little house music Friday evenings, like Frankie Knuckles, and for the morning commute some Sonny Rollins,’ Gates told Curbed Chicago.

The music-oriented installation is accompanied by a piece called america, america– a pair of hanging tapestries produced from decommissioned fire hoses, making reference to the civil rights movement marches at which hoses were turned against protestors.

Read more about the project and find pictures here, and revisit some classic Sonny Rollins below.

The Repeat Listen: Angelique Kidjo – Celia

Celia Cruz & Tito Puente  –Alma Con Alma (The Heart & Soul Of Celia Cruz & Tito Puente), Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía, Anthony Joseph ‎– Caribbean Roots, Èkó Afrobeat ‎– Èkó Afrobeat, Les Amazones d’Afrique – République Amazone

Beninese vocalist Angelique Kidjo is now, irrefutably, one of Africa’s most loved and respected contemporary artists. Her skill, perseverance and goodwill have seen her commended by publications and organisations around the world, while her ever creative musical output has led to three Grammy Award wins, over a million Facebook followers, and numerous collaborative projects. Everywhere one looks, Kidjo’s name continues to reoccur: her full album cover of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light putting her before a rock and pop audience, her participation in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 12 (“Lodger”) in L.A. showing her gravitas in the classical world, and her performance under the Arc De Triomphe to commemorate the centennial of the Great War, putting her voice in front of world leaders in the political field. A Harvard University jazz master last year and a Songlines award nominee this, she proves time and again, in all quantifiable ways, that success has come from her artistic commitment.

Following her aforementioned full album cover of Remain in Light, one mightn’t have expected Kidjo to return with a second homage to another artists work in such quick time. However, the work of Celia Cruz, one of the most popular artists in the history of Cuban and Latin music, is incredibly close to her heart. “As a child I saw Celia Cruz singing in Benin,” a statement of Kidjo’s website reads. “It was the first I was seeing a powerful woman performer on a stage. Her voice was percussive and her songs resonated in a mysterious way with me. Many years later, I learned she was singing the Yoruba songs that were carried out of Benin 400 years before.”

From this deep connection comes a joyous and beautifully executed album, upon which Kidjo works with great artists young and old, selecting music from throughout Cruz’s revered catalogue.

The project begins with Cucala, a song upon which the title term becomes a rhythmic and percussive anchor, with playful guitar lines and ensemble vocals lifting the soft yet punchy arrangement. Percussion is understandably a vital component of this record, and plays its part again in the almost Ethio-jazz cut, La Vida Es un Carnaval, where psychedelic organ and wah-wah guitar work subtly beneath a polyrhythmic framework, braced by metallic hand percussion and groovy snare rolls.

Sahara is a surprising yet beautiful shift in direction – a gentle introduction leading into a subtly orchestrated number, where hand piano, wood blocks and strings back Kidjo’s powerful lead vocals. The singer describes Quimbaraas her favourite of Cruz’s songs, and what she has done with it is spectacular. A powerful brass bass line, afrobeat rhythm from featured artist Tony Allen, and a beguiling, looping guitar pattern that draws the listener inward.

A snippet of Kidjo recording Bemba Colora with Sons of Kemet has already emerged online, but one needn’t have seen the clip to recognise Theon Cross’ staccato tuba playing holding down the low end. The dual-drum groove suits the composition perfectly, and Shabaka Hutching’s effervescent saxophone work graces this track, as it does La Vida Es un Carnaval earlier in the LP.

Front to back, the album is a joyous and triumphant record, reaffiriming all that we knew to be brilliant about Kidjo and her work. Her affinity with Cruz may not have been known if not for this recording. Both exiled from countries under a dictatorship, both headstrong artists coming to lead the way in male-dominated musical sectors – Cruz and Kidjo were two generations apart yet seemingly, kindred spirits.

New Sounds and Visuals

Heavenly Recordings outfit Pip Blom released a new video for Rubythis week. The grainy, 4:3 visual was shot on ‘film, Super 8 – Kodak Ektachrome / Kodak TriX’ by Raymond Van Mill and sees Pip in the psychiatrist’s office, as her pure, unprocessed vocal leads the angular and instantly catchy, new wave/jangle pop cut.

London-based pianist and producer Alfa Mist shared the second track from his forthcoming LP, Structuralism, last week. Mulago begins with brooding acoustic piano and a vocal sample about the failings of modern education, before blossoming into a synth-laden, jazzy-hip-hop groove of epic weight.

Having been dazzled by her recent Band on the Wall show, we’re equally impressed by the peaceful new video for Kelly Moran’s Water Music. The colourful piece is the work of various contributors and provides engaging accompaniment for Moran’s atmospheric synths and beguiling prepared piano.

Manchester-based singer-songwriter HMD released his new single Deenlate last week, accompanied by a creatively-edited music video. In our recent interview, HMD explained that, ‘Deen is Arabic for Faith, it’s a common term used within my circle to describe one’s driven focus and the term fits naturally into the song, but also signifies my heritage and background.’ Self-produced and featuring he as the sole vocalist, it’s a flooring example of the artist’s skill and is certain to light up sound systems as his renown grows.

Photo credits: Angelique Kidjo via Shorefire media (public download –, Alfa Mist via artist, Pip Blom via artist, HMD by Akash Khadkha.



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