France, which is seriously selective about only elevating the best of its jazz singers, has been in a stew ever since young Beninoise-French singer Mina Agossi emerged from nightclubs to limelight. If her first albums were essentially trials of style, then Zaboum!! – Agossi’s lightly titled fourth release – sees everything in perfect placement.

Zaboum!! is poised on a cusp between trad greats and modern innovation. The smoky-voiced Agossi takes on songs by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, even Jimi Hendrix, to give a flavour of her interpretative ability. But once on her own compositions, Agossi has a Björkish inventiveness. Birds sing on the title track; ‘Gypsy Boy’, so full of longing and menace, is opened right up by some aching violin; ‘Identity’ is spurred on by some dark electronic percussion.

Her four-strong band features bassist Alexandre Hiele with Bertrand Perrin and DD Williams’ staggering range of percussion, but it’s Agossi who is the revelation. Her intonations match the words: she really can ‘scratch the air’ to quote ‘2000 Bells’. And Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ gets a complete makeover, with Agossi taking the song off to Morocco and setting it free in the kasbah. As her voice moves into wild and slinky ad libs, a whole new journey is revealed.

New Internationalist issue 382 magazine cover This article is from the September 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop