In October 1980, Talking Heads released its fourth studio album, Remain in Light, which was heavily influenced by African rhythms and melodies and specifically the music of Nigerian star Fela Kuti. The record was a big hit, featuring such songs as “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Houses in Motion,” “The Great Curve,” and the classic “Once in a Lifetime.” (The reissued CD contained the bonus track “Fela’s Riff.”) Were Remain in Light released today, it likely would have been condemned by many as blatant cultural appropriation, but not everyone might agree. “It was a record that was ahead of its time, and it was radically different from other pop music around,” Vernon Reid told the BerkshireWeb in 2001, shortly before his band, Living Colour, played the entire album at Mass MoCA. “It was an evolution of the coming together of African music, electronics, funk, and a kind of post-punk new wave, a culmination of things that had already been in the air.” This past May, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer Angélique Kidjo reclaimed the record at Carnegie Hall, reinterpreting it song by song, joined by Talking Heads leader David Byrne, the Antibalas Horns, and Nona Hendryx, who appeared on the original LP.
On August 2, the Grammy-winning Kidjo, who has released such albums as Logozo, Oremi, Black Ivory Soul, and Djin Djin over the course of her twenty-five-year career, will perform the record again in a free show at the Damrosch Bandshell as part of the annual summer Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival. In 2013, she staged a fabulous free live River to River show in Rockefeller Park, inviting dozens of fans (yours truly among them) onstage to dance with her during a smokin’ hot version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” Opening at Damrosch Park is Ibibio Sound Machine, making its U.S. debut; the group was founded by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams. Lincoln Center Out of Doors continues through August 13 with such other events as a silent screening of the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski on August 3, Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue with Los Straitjackets and Cut Worms on August 5, and The Jayhawks: A Celebration of Chuck Berry (with Reid as music director) on August 12 as part of AmericanaFest NYC.