Original music made in motherland Africa has been of immense cultural value and influence on the diaspora over the last decade. This is seen in the way and manner members of the diaspora community with ties to Africa have used it as a tool to establish and renew connections with the continent, to share in its essence and revel in its shared experiences as distant custodians.
Our spotlight today is on one of Africa's music colossus who has embodied the richness of African values in all of its entirety, and placed Africa at the centre of her work. This living female African legend has been preaching the possibilities of the emergence of a new Africa through her music. The name, Angelique Kidjo is what she is globally addressed as.
Born Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo on July 14 1960, in the city of Ouidah, Dahomey (now Benin Republic), the singer-songwriter, actress and activist has been credibly known for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos.
Kidjo was born into a family of performing artists. Her father from the Fon tribe of Ouidah, a musician and her mother from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, a theatre director and choreographer. This background gave young Kidjo an opportunity to hone her talents as she grew up listening to Yoruba and Beninese traditional music, and by the time she was six, Kidjo was already performing with her mother's theatre troupe.
She began singing in her school band, Les Sphinx and recorded her first album "Pretty" at the time. The success of this album allowed her to tour all over West African countries. However due to the political unrest in Benin which was having an 'impact' on her career, Kidjo relocated to Paris, France in 1983.
In Paris, Kidjo studied music at Le CIM, (Centre d'Informations Musicales), a reputable jazz school in the city. There, she met musician and producer Jean Hebrail, who became her life long lover in 1987. Kidjo began singing in local bands and by the end of the 1980's, she had become one of the most popular live performers in Paris. She recorded a solo album called "Parakou" for the Open Jazz Label, before going on to make four studio albums with Island Records after she was discovered by its founder Chris Blackwell, who gave her a deal in 1991.
In 2000, Kidjo moved to Columbia Records in New York and she recorded two of her albums with the label. From 1989 when she recorded her first international album "Parakou", Kidjo has gone on to score and release an incredible 13 studio albums to her credits.
Some of her notable, award winning singles and albums combined include but not limited to; "Wombo Lombo" released in 1996 off her "Fifa" album, a trilogy of albums ("Oremi", "Black Ivory Soul" and "Oyaya") released successively in 1998, 2000 and 2004, the "Eve" album released in 2014 which won the Grammy award for Best Global Music Album at the 57th Grammys, a collaboration album "Sings" with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in 2015, the "Celia" album in 2019 and her most recent body of work "Mother Nature" released on June 18, 2021.
On January 7 2014, Kidjo enlisted the services of US/UK based firm HarperCollins to publish a memoir written by herself and Rachel Wenrick titled 'Spirit Rising'. In the memoir, Kidjo chronicles an inspiring life of music and activism, and raises a passionate call for freedom, dignity, and the rights of people everywhere.
Kidjo, with her expansive discography and excellent stage-craft abilities has performed at epoch-making events and in front of very distinguished members of the global community. In 2002, she performed in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize concert honouring Jimmy Carter - the 39th President of the United States of America. On October 23 2009, she sang at the United Nations General Assembly for the UN concert. In Capetown, South Africa on December 4 2009, she performed her song 'Agolo' at the final draw of the FIFA World Cup 2010. On March 8, 2013, International Women's Day, Kidjo performed along with Fatoumata Diawara at the Royal Festival Hall in London for the Women of the World Festival organized by the Southbank Centre. She also performed at the opening ceremony of Tokyo Olympics Games in 2021, amongst many others.
Kidjo married French musician and producer Jean Hébrail in 1987. Their daughter, Naima was born in 1993 in France. Mama Kidjo,a sextugenerian is fluent in five languages: Fon, French, Yorùbá, Gen (Mina) and English. She is the only African, who for the most number of times has scooped the highly prized music awards - The Grammys, winning it a record five (5) times and bagging twelve (12) nominations. She won her first Grammy in 2008 with her album "Djin Djin" and she picked up her most recent Grammy with her 2021 Pan-African collaboration album "Mother Nature"
On September 15, 2021, Time Magazine included her in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. What a Legend!