Music of the world visiting W. Mass.

Nanci Griffith
By Craig Harris

Special to The Reminder

March 22 Nanci Griffith & Her Blue Moon Orchestra, Lincoln Theater, Hartt School, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, Conn.; for further information, call 860-768-4454

March 23 Angelique Kidjo, Calvin Theater, 19 King St., Northampton; for further information, call 584-1444

Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith joins with Benin-born and New York-based vocalist Angelique Kidjo to create this week's very vibrant music scene.

Songwriting has brought Austin, Texas-born, and Nashville-based Nanci Griffith to the forefront of country-folk music for a quarter of a century. Her songs have furnished hits for such artists as Suzzy Bogguss, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. Kathy Mattea recorded two of Griffith's songs "Listen To The Radio" and "Love At The Five And Dime" for which she earned a "Country Song Of The Year" Grammy nomination in 1986. In Ireland, Griffith's song "Trouble In The Fields" became an economic anthem and was recorded by Mary Black and Maura O'Connell.

Griffith, who performs at the Lincoln Theater at the University of Hartford's Hartt School on March 22, is equally effective interpreting the songs of others. Her album of cover tunes, "Other Voices, Other Rooms," received a "Best Contemporary Folk Album" Grammy in 1993.

On her latest effort, "Ruby's Touch," Griffith explores the torch-song tradition of American balladry. Several of her early compositions, including "Brave Companions of the Road" from 1989, and the title song of her 1991 album, "Late Night Grande Hotel," are resurrected. Griffith and her band, the Blue Moon Orchestra, augmented by strings and a brass section, show their flexibility with heart-melting renditions of tunes by Jimmy Webb, Frank Christian and Tom Waits.

With her dance-inspiring mix of Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel and R&B, Benin-born Angelique Kidjo has been steadily attracting worldwide attention. While she captured the affection of the music scene in Paris, where she moved after the political unrest of her homeland in 1982, as lead singer of Euro-African jazz-rock band, Jasper Van't Hofs Pili Pili, Kidjo has increasingly reached out to a global audience. Her latest album, "Djin Djin," features an international roster of guests including Josh Groban, Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Branford Marsalis.

Singing in a variety of languages, including Fon, French, Yoruba, Swahili and English, Kidjo has increasingly built on her global-spanning approach, incorporating such tunes as Gershwin's "Summertime," Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" and the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" into her repertoire. She'll be performing at the Calvin Theater, in Northampton on March 23.