Angélique Kidjo Reflects on Her 40-Year Musical Journey and Advocacy for Change.
Celebrated music icon Angélique Kidjo commemorates four decades in music with a grand concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, joined by an impressive lineup of globally recognized artists.
The Beninois superstar, boasting 16 albums and five Grammy awards, attributes her lifelong passion to an insatiable curiosity since childhood. “My nickname was ‘When, Why, How?’… I want to understand things, to understand my place in this world… And I hate to be bored,” she humorously shared.
Kidjo’s concert lineup includes renowned artists like Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Malouf, Ghana’s dancehall star Stonebwoy, and Britain’s Laura Mvula. Notably, she has chosen Europe’s diverse Chineke! Orchestra to accompany her, championing diversity and limitless possibilities in the classical world.
Known for her collaborations transcending genres and cultures, Kidjo reimagined songs by Talking Heads and Cuban Salsa singer Celia Cruz and crafted a unique rendition of Ravel’s Boléro. Her latest collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma on JS Bach’s Sarabande showcases her continual passion for diverse musical experiences.
Beyond music, Kidjo champions causes close to her heart. She fervently corrects negative stereotypes about Africa and challenges Eurocentrism. She uses her platform to advocate for girls’ education in Africa through her charity, Batonga, and has campaigned against female genital mutilation (FGM), influencing African leaders to sign resolutions against this practice.
Her childhood in Benin was disrupted by a political coup in 1972, an experience that awakened her to the fragility of freedom. This awareness shaped her activism, prompting her to write music that became an anthem of peace amid societal unrest.
Kidjo’s proudest accomplishment isn’t her musical accolades but her family. She credits her husband and 36-year marriage alongside raising her daughter amid a bustling career as her greatest achievement. Despite the challenges of constant travel, she never left her daughter behind and instilled in her a global perspective.
Embracing technology, Kidjo believes it has unlocked the potential of the younger generation of African musicians. She encourages them to harness their influence for the continent’s betterment, fostering a sense of responsibility beyond personal success.
As she mentors and guides the next wave of artists, Kidjo emphasizes the collective responsibility to effect positive change, echoing her belief that the power of music will catalyze a transformative tsunami in Africa.
Kidjo’s legacy extends beyond her musical prowess, inspiring a new generation of artists to use their influence for social good and champion change for Africa.