From two internationally-respected artists proven limitless in both time and place comes Ifé, an orchestral illustration of the Yorùbán creation land and holy city. The collaboration between visionary composer Philip Glass and vocal artist Angélique Kidjo, titled Ifé: Three Yorùbá Songs for Orchestra, arrives stateside in full under the aegis of the San Francisco Symphony and conductor Edwin Outwater.
Each piece is named after a god: “Olodumare” for the almighty deity, “Yemandja” for the goddess of the sea, and “Oshumare” for the rainbow serpent. Kidjo herself has a near divine status with 15 records (give or take) since the early 1980s. The versatile Beninese singer-songwriter now resides in New York City and had crossed paths with Glass multiple times before working with him on Ifé.
“It’s not based on any kind of indigenous music; it’s based on my knowing [Kidjo’s] voice,” Glass explains, to justify his writing process. Because he had never before heard Kidjo’s native language, it began with a careful dissection of Yorùbá’s vocal rhythm and phrasing in the three poems. He admits, “it doesn’t sound African [or] European.”
Glass likens the composition process to the new construction of a bridge upon which American listeners will have the chance to walk for the first time July 10 at Davies Symphony Hall. Ifé first premiered in Luxembourg January 17, 2014 and has been performed in only Austria since then. Kidjo will also be performing Gershwin and songs from her album Sings, out earlier this year via 429 Records.
Article by Joanna Jiang