Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo
Kidjo performing at the Gershwin Prize in 2023
Born
Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo

(1960-07-14) July 14, 1960 (age 63)
Occupations
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
Spouse
Jean Hébrail
(m. 1987)
Musical career
Genres
Instrument(s)Vocals
Years active1982–present
Labels
Websitekidjo.com

Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo (/ˌɒ̃ʒəˈliːk ˈkɪdʒuː, - ˈkɪdʒoʊ/; born July 14, 1960) is a Beninese-French singer-songwriter, actress, and activist noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Kidjo was born into a family of performing artists. Her father was a musician, and her mother worked as a choreographer and theatre director. Kidjo has won five Grammy Awards. She is a 2023 Polar Music Prize laureate.

In 2007, Time magazine called her "Africa's premier diva." She performed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on July 23, 2021. On September 15, 2021, Time included her in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Angelique Kidjo has collaborated with many artists including Bono, John Legend, Peter Gabriel, Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, Josh Groban, Philip Glass, Sting, Ziggy Marley, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy and Davido.

Her album Logozo is ranked number 37 in the Greatest Dance Albums of All Time list compiled by Vice magazine's Thump website.

Kidjo is fluent in five languages: Fon, French, Yorùbá, Gen (Mina), and English. She sings in all of them, and she also has her own personal language, which includes words that serve as song titles such as "Batonga". "Malaika" is a song sung in the Swahili language. Kidjo often uses Benin's traditional Zilin vocal technique and vocalese.

Early life

Kidjo was born in Ouidah, French Dahomey, in what is now Benin. Her father is from the Fon people of Ouidah and her mother from the Yoruba people in Nigeria. She grew up listening to Yoruba and Beninese traditional music, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, James Brown, Manu Dibango, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, Osibisa, and Santana. By the time she was six, Kidjo was performing with her mother's theatre troupe, giving her an early appreciation for traditional music and dance.

She started singing in her school band, Les Sphinx, and found success as a teenager with her adaptation of Miriam Makeba's "Les Trois Z," which was played on national radio. Kidjo recorded the album Pretty with the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar. It featured the songs "Ninive," "Gbe Agossi", and a tribute to the singer Bella Bellow, one of her role models. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. Continuing political conflicts in Benin prevented her from being an independent artist in her own country and led her to relocate to Paris in 1983.

Paris

Due to political conflicts, Kidjo had to leave her home country and moved to Paris in the 1980s. She initially planned to become a human rights lawyer, but ended up studying music. While working various day jobs to pay for her tuition, Kidjo studied music at the CIM, a reputable jazz school in Paris, where she met musician and producer Jean Hebrail, with whom she has composed most of her music and whom she married in 1987. She started out as a backup singer in local bands. In 1985, she became the front singer of Jasper van 't Hof's Euro-African jazz/rock band Pili Pili. Three Pili Pili studio albums followed: Jakko (1987), Be In Two Minds (1988, produced by Marlon Klein) and Hotel Babo (1990). By the end of the 1980s, she had become one of the most popular live performers in Paris and recorded a solo album called Parakou for the Open Jazz Label. She was then 'discovered' in Paris by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who signed her in 1991. She recorded four albums for Island until Blackwell's departure from the label. In 2000 she was signed in New York by Columbia Records, for whom she recorded two albums.

Albums

Parakou

Kidjo's first international album Parakou, first released in 1989, was the beginning of a series of collaborations with producer and composer Jean Hébrail and featured Jasper van't Hof.

Logozo

Her first album for Island Records was recorded between Miami and Paris and produced by Miami Sound Machine drummer Joe Galdo and features Branford Marsalis and Manu DiBango on saxophones. It was released worldwide in 1991 and reached number one on the Billboard World Albums chart. Music videos for the singles "We We" and "Batonga" were released and Kidjo made her first world tour, appearing at many festivals and headlining the Olympia Hall in Paris on October 31, 1992. Logozo is ranked number 37 in the Greatest Dance Albums of All Time list compiled by the Thump website.

Ayé

Released in 1994, the album Ayé was produced by David Z at Prince's Paisley Park Studio in Minneapolis and by Will Mowat at Soul To Soul studio in London. It includes the single "Agolo", a song that addresses the issue of the environment, of which the video directed by Michel Meyer gave Kidjo her first Grammy nomination. Ayé does not focus on traditional African instrumentation such as using the kora or the balafon, but still has an overtly African undertone to it with Kidjo singing in Yoruba, a Nigerian language, as well as in her native Fon, often using the Beninese traditional zilin vocal technique.

Fifa

Kidjo and Jean Hebrail traveled all over Benin in 1995 to record the traditional rhythms that would form the base for the Fifa album. Carlos Santana appears on "Naima", a piece Kidjo wrote for her daughter. The single "Wombo Lombo" and its video directed by Michel Meyer was a big success all over Africa in 1996. Recording: Benin, Paris (Guillaume Tell), London, Los Angeles, Sausalito Plant (Carlos Santana).

Trilogy

In 1998, she started a trilogy of albums (Oremi, Black Ivory Soul and Oyaya) exploring the African roots of the music of the Americas.

Oremi

Produced by Peter Mokran and Jean Hebrail, recorded in New York, Oremi is a collection of songs mixing African and African-American influences. Cassandra Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Kelly Price and Kenny Kirkland collaborated with Kidjo on this project. The opening track is a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child".

Black Ivory Soul

In 2000, Kidjo traveled to Salvador de Bahia to start recording the Axe percussion grooves for this album, based on Afro-Brazilian culture. She worked with songwriters Carlinhos Brown and Vinicius Cantuária. On the Brazilian version of the album Gilberto Gil joined her on "Refavela" and Daniella Mercury on "Tumba". Dave Matthews appears in the song "Iwoya".

Oyaya!

Produced by Steve Berlin from Los Lobos and by the pianist Alberto Salas, released in 2004, Oyaya! mixes Latin and Caribbean music with African guitars. The French Guyanese Henri Salvador, who was 86 at the time of the recording, joined Kidjo on the song "Le Monde Comme un Bébé".

Djin Djin

Kidjo released the album Djin Djin on May 1, 2007. Many guests appear on the album including Josh Groban, Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Peter Gabriel, Amadou and Mariam, Ziggy Marley, and Branford Marsalis. The title refers to the sound of a bell in Africa that greets each new day. The album, produced by Tony Visconti, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding World Music Album.

Õÿö

Õÿö, released in Europe on January 18, 2010, and in America on April 6, 2010, pays tribute to the music of Kidjo's childhood in Benin. It mixes traditional music, Miriam Makeba's songs, classic soul of the 1960s and 1970s; including a song from the 1952 Bollywood film Aan, "Dil Main Chuppa Ke Pyar Ka." Dianne Reeves appears on Aretha Franklin's "Baby I Love You", Bono and John Legend on Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up", for which Kidjo recorded a video with the Fela! dancers and Roy Hargrove on Santana's "Samba Pa Ti." Produced by Kidjo and Jean Hebrail, the album was arranged in conjunction with the Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke. Õÿö was nominated for Best Contemporary World Music Album for the 53rd Grammy Awards.

Spirit Rising

Spirit Rising, the live album from Kidjo's PBS Special performance, was released in North America on February 22, 2012. It features a collection of songs from her entire career played live in Boston with special guests Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend, Dianne Reeves, Branford Marsalis, Christian McBride and Josh Groban. She sings a version of "Redemption Song" with the Kuumba Singers.

Eve

On January 28, 2014, Kidjo released a new album, Eve, dedicated to the women of Africa, to their resilience and their beauty: "Eve is an album of remembrance of African women I grew up with and a testament to the pride and strength that hide behind the smile that masks everyday troubles", Kidjo commented. She traveled to Kenya and Benin, from South to North and back, armed with a six-track field recorder, to capture the sweet rhythmic harmonies and chants of traditional women choirs. With the contribution of the Beninese percussionists from the Gangbe Brass Band, Kidjo laid the musical foundation of the album in New York with an ensemble of top session musicians—guitarist (and fellow Benin native) Lionel Loueke, guitarist Dominic James, drummer Steve Jordan, bass great Christian McBride—under the guidance of producer Patrick Dillett, a longtime collaborator of David Byrne. Helping the singer fulfil her vision on Eve was a host of exciting prominent newcomers to her musical circle, including guitarist and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend, Nigerian folk singer Aṣa on "Eva", legendary pianist Dr. John, who adds his New Orleans magic to "Kulumbu"; The Kronos Quartet and the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, The traditional Congolese song "Bana" features the vocals of Kidjo's mother Yvonne. The album debuted at number 1 in the Billboard World Music chart. The album Eve was rated No. 1 in the Top 12 of World Music albums for 2014 by Radio France Internationale. Its opening track, "M'Baamba", featured in The New York Times' "Top 10 songs of 2014" list. Eve won the Grammy Award for Best Global Music Album at the 57th Grammy Awards.

Angélique Kidjo Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg

On March 31, 2015, Kidjo released her collaboration with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. The album contains orchestral versions of 9 songs from previous albums and two original songs: Nanae and Otishe. All the songs are arranged by Gast Waltzing and David Laborier and the orchestra is conducted by Gast Waltzing. The Australian newspaper noted: "Kidjo opens what's arguably her most ambitious album by paying homage to her heroine, Miriam Makeba. None of her three previously released versions of Malaika can match the majesty and grandeur of this latest spine-tingling rendition, which features the singer in superlative voice (in Swahili) backed by the strings and wind instruments of the 110-piece Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. Elsewhere, the consummate guitar playing of Kidjo's compatriot Lionel Loueke and Brazilian Romero Lubambo augment conductor-trumpeter Gast Waltzing's sumptuous arrangements. Sultry flute and flugelhorn help Kidjo tease the nuances out of Carlos Santana's smouldering "Samba Pa Ti". In Fifa and Naima, swelling strings and soaring vocals follow tender cappella intros. In Loloye, the strings flutter like a flock of flamingoes as horns ascend like eagles. Female backup vocals lift Ominira and the previously unreleased Namae. A truly beautiful album, Sings combines the stately qualities of classical music with the coolness of jazz and the fervour of African and Brazilian rhythms.". Tony Hillier of Rhythms Magazine described it as "arguably the most ambitious and spiritually arresting album the New York-based West African singer has recorded in a long and distinguished career." The album won the Grammy Award for Best Global Music Album category.

Remain in Light

Kidjo in 2017

Released on June 8, 2018, Kidjo partnered with producer Jeff Bhasker (Rihanna, Kanye West, Harry Styles, Bruno Mars, Drake, Jay-Z) to create Remain in Light. The record is a track-by-track re-imagination of Talking Heads' landmark 1980 album, considered to be one of the greatest albums of the 1980s and deeply influenced by music from West Africa, notably Fela Kuti's Afrobeat. With her version of Remain in Light, Kidjo wanted to celebrate the music of Talking Heads and Brian Eno with her own vocals, as well as percussion, horn orchestrations, and select lyrics performed in languages from her home country. Remain in Light features appearances by Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Blood Orange, Tony Allen, Antibalas Horns, Kidjo's longtime guitarist Dominic James, and percussionist Magatte Sow. Visual artist Kerry James Marshall created the album artwork.

Celia

Kidjo's tribute to Cuban singer Celia Cruz was released on April 19, 2019. It is produced by David Donatien and featured Tony Allen, Meshell Ndegeocello and the Gangbe Brass Band. The Guardian called the album "magnificent", and the Financial Times gave it 5 stars. The album includes songs spanning all of Celia Cruz's career reinvented with an Afrobeat feel. Of the song "Quimbara", New York Times critic Jon Pareles says: "Backed by Michelle Ndegeocello on bass, the Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums, Dominic James on guitars and the Gangbe Brass Band, Kidjo reconnects the salsa original to West Africa, layering the song with a tumbling six-beat rhythm, a brass-band undertow and a tangle of scurrying guitar lines while she belts with enough grit to rival Cruz herself." Kidjo won the Grammy Award for "Best World Music Album" for Celia on January 26, 2020.

Mother Nature

On June 18, 2021, the album Mother Nature was released. It features many collaborations with young African producers and singers including Yemi Alade, Burna Boy Mr Eazi, Zeynab, Shungudzo, Sampa The Great, Rexxie, African legend Salif Keita and French singer Matthieu Chedid. Music videos for the songs "Dignity", "Africa", "One of a Kind" and "Mother Nature" featuring Sting have been released. The Independent said: "the 15th album by Angelique Kidjo has the feel of a grand homecoming: celebratory and inclusive, with an acute sense of place and time". The Sunday Times said: "the music ... is infectious ... the rhythms are a combination of modern and traditional fused with state-of-the-art production values. Kidjo's impassioned voice evokes memories of the great Miriam Makeba". The Financial Times called Mother Nature "a rallying pan-African collaboration"

Memoir: Spirit Rising, My Life, My Music

With Rachel Wenrick, Kidjo has written a memoir entitled Spirit Rising. It was published by HarperCollins on January 7, 2014. Desmond Tutu wrote the preface and Alicia Keys the foreword. On the back cover, Bill Clinton is quoted as saying: "The only thing bigger than Angélique Kidjo's voice is her heart. In this evocative memoir, Kidjo chronicles an inspiring life of music and activism, and raises a passionate call for freedom, dignity, and the rights of people everywhere."

Collaboration with Philip Glass: IFÉ

January 17, 2014, saw the premiere of IFÉ: Three Yoruba songs for Angelique Kidjo and the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer at the Philharmonie hall in Luxembourg. Philip Glass wrote the orchestral music based on three creation poems in Yoruba sung by Kidjo. In the program notes, Philip Glass says: "Angelique, together we have built a bridge that no one has walked on before." The piece made its American premiere with the San Francisco Symphony to a sold-out crowd in the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on July 10, 2015.

Advocacy

Kidjo has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. With UNICEF, she has travelled to many countries in Africa. Reports on her visits can be found on the UNICEF site: Benin, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Syria, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Haiti.

Along with Mary Louise Cohen and John R. Phillips, Kidjo founded The Batonga Foundation, which empowers some of the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach young women and girls in Benin with the knowledge and skills they need to be agents of change in their own lives and communities. Batonga accomplishes this by locating the most vulnerable adolescent girls in Benin and connecting them to girl-centred safe spaces led by Beninese women. These safe spaces provide young women and girls with training that allow them to gain new skills in financial literacy and build social capital.

She campaigned for Oxfam at the 2005 Hong Kong WTO meeting, for their Fair Trade Campaign and travelled with them in North Kenya and at the border of Darfur and Chad with a group of women leaders in 2007 and participated in the video for the in My Name Campaign with will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas.

She hosted the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in Alexandria, Egypt, on November 26, 2007, and on November 15, 2008, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on November 14, 2009, and in Mauritius on November 20, 2010. She hosted the "Africa Celebrates Democracy Concert" organized by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in Tunis on November 11, 2011, and sang at the Award Ceremony on November 12, 2011, also in Dakar on November 10, 2012, Addis Ababa in November 2013 and Accra in November 2015.

Since March 2009, Kidjo has been campaigning for "Africa for women's rights". This campaign was launched by The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

On September 28, 2009, UNICEF and Pampers launched a campaign to eradicate Tetanus "Give the Gift of Life" and asked Kidjo to produce the song "You Can Count On Me" to support the campaign. Each download of the song donates a vaccine to a mother or a mother-to-be.

With Jessica Biel and Peter Wentz, Kidjo was a LiveEarth Ambassador for the 2010 Run For Water events.

Kidjo has recorded a video based on her song "Agolo" and on the images of Yann Arthus-Bertrand for the United Nations SEAL THE DEAL Campaign to prepare for the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

The Commission of the African Union (AU) announced on July 16, 2010, the appointment of Kidjo as one of 14 Peace Ambassadors to support the implementation of the 2010 Year of Peace and Security programme.

She appears in the Sudan365: Keep the Promise video, to support the peace process in Darfur.

In June 2010, she contributed the song "Leila" to the Enough Project and Downtown Records' Raise Hope for Congo compilation. Proceeds from the compilation fund efforts to make the protection and empowerment of Congo's women a priority, as well as inspire individuals around the world to raise their voice for peace in Congo.

In 2011, Kidjo collaborated with Forró in the Dark and Brazilian Girls on the track "Aquele Abraço" for the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album Red Hot + Rio 2. The album is a follow-up to the 1996 Red Hot + Rio. Proceeds from the sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues. Kidjo recorded a version of Fela Kuti's "Lady" with Questlove and Tune-Yards for the Red Hot Organization in 2012.

In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs/30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book.

On February 18, 2013, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Kidjo was the host of a night of celebration for the cultural heritage of Mali. The event included performances by many Malian artists.

On May 22, 2014, Kidjo met with First lady Michelle Obama to discuss international girls' education, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House.

On September 21, 2014, Kidjo was one of the endorsees of the People's Climate March. She joined the march in New York, along with Mary Robinson, and was interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now.

November 2014 saw Kidjo collaborating with many other artists as part of Band Aid 30, the 30th anniversary version of the 1980s supergroup.

In 2015 she signed an open letter which the ONE Campaign had been collecting signatures for; the letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before the main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.

Kidjo is a contributor to the Art Of Saving A Life Campaign initiated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

On September 25, 2015, she sang Afirika at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in support of the launch of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development along with Shakira after a speech by Pope Francis and before Malala.

At the G7 Summit in 2019, President Macron of France named Kidjo as the spokesperson for the AFAWA initiative (Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa) to help close the financing gap for women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Batonga Foundation

The Batonga Foundation
Founded2006
Founders
TypeEducational Charity No. 501(c(3)
Location
Area served
Key people
  • Mary Louise Cohen
  • Angélique Kidjo
  • Monica Winsor
  • Jean Hebrail
  • Joel H. Samuels
  • Aleta Williams
  • Romuald Hazoumè
  • Colin Clarke
Websitewww.batongafoundation.org

In 2006, Kidjo founded the Batonga Foundation with the goal of empowering and educating adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Batonga's goal is to go "beyond the paved road" by targeting the most excluded girls and equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to live healthy, financially independent lives. Batonga's data-driven approach allows them to target the hardest-to-reach girls, recruit them to the Girls Clubs, provide them a safe space to learn, convene, connect, and improve their livelihoods. In this, Batonga remains true to its core mission— to shine a light on the most overlooked girls in Francophone West Africa and empower them to be agents of change in their communities and their own lives.

History

Growing up, Kidjo was one of the few girls in Benin to receive an education. She invented the word "Batonga" as a joyfully defiant response to those who told her that girls did not belong in the classroom. Later, it would become the title of a hit song for the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and the name of her non-profit organization.

In 2006, Kidjo founded the Batonga Foundation with the goal of empowering and educating adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Batonga has since provided girls in five African countries (Mali, Benin, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Cameroon) with 5,000 academic years of education through scholarships and in-kind support, supplied 8,727 students access to wells and latrines across 7 schools in Benin, and offered 222,000 students in Benin's poorest regions TOMS shoes for the walk to school.

In 2015 and 2016, under the guidance of the intentional design team at Population Council, Batonga began to shift away from the scholarship model and formal education initiatives that tended to leave behind society's most vulnerable. Batonga began instead focusing on innovative education programs geared toward the most excluded young women and girls. Today, Batonga focuses primarily on providing girls with safe spaces and mentors, equipping them with life and financial literacy skills, and helping them start small businesses.

Notable partners of Batonga include:

World War I Centennial Ceremony

On November 11, 2018, Kidjo sang Bella Bellow's song "Blewu" under the Arc De Triomphe of Paris in front of 70 heads of state and a television audience of millions to pay tribute to the fallen African soldiers of the war.[non-primary source needed]

Special concerts

In 1996, Kidjo performed in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta for their work in East Timor.

In 1998, she was part of Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair tour.

In 2002, she performed in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring President Jimmy Carter.

In February 2003, she performed a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City alongside Chicago blues guitar legend Buddy Guy and New York rock guitarist Vernon Reid (of Living Colour) in what would become part of Lightning in a Bottle: One Night In The History Of The Blues, a documentary about blues music that features live concert footage of other rock, rap, and blues greats.

In November 2003, she sang with Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour at the Cape Town 46664 concert for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

In May 2004, she performed at the Quincy Jones-produced concert in Rome called "We Are The Future" in front of 400,000 people. The show took place at the Circus Maximus with appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli, Herbie Hancock and other international stars.

In 2005, Kidjo appeared at the Africa Unite Live concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a concert to celebrate the Honourable Bob Marley's 60th birthday, and was a featured speaker at the conference of African Unity held along with the concert.

In March 2005, she appeared at the Africa Live concert in Dakar along with many great African stars in front of 50,000 people.

In June 2005, she was part of the Live 8 concert, Eden Project hosted by Angelina Jolie in Cornwall, UK.

Kidjo in 2006

In 2007, she covered John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" for the CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.

In 2007, she toured North America extensively with Josh Groban's "Awake" show.

On July 7, 2007, Kidjo performed at the South African leg of Live Earth.

Annie Lennox has joined forces with Kidjo and 22 other female artists to raise awareness of the transmission of HIV to unborn children in Africa.

Kidjo was also a judge for the seventh annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.

Kidjo performed at the 75th Birthday Celebration of Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2008.

She made her Carnegie Hall debut in New York on November 1, 2008.

Her Royal Albert Hall debut in London was on November 26, 2008, along with Hugh Masekela for the "African Stars" concert benefitting VSO.

She appears on the "Price of Silence" video produced by Amnesty International to celebrate the 60 years of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Along with Joan Baez, Michael Franti and Jackson Browne, she performed at the Peace Ball for Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009.

Kidjo made her Sydney Opera House debut in Australia on April 12, 2009.

Kidjo appeared in the theatrical performance of Storie fantastiche dal delta del Niger by Raffaele Curi [it] for the Alda Fendi Experimenti Foundation in Rome in April 2009.

The same month, Kidjo performed at Africa Day in The Hague, Netherlands, showing her commitment to poverty reduction and supporting the work of the Evert Vermeer Foundation and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. Kidjo commented, "In the fight against poverty you need organisations like SNV and the Evert Vermeer Foundation. SNV with expertise on the ground and EVF convincing politicians to do more on sustainable development." In July 2009, Kidjo became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation International Advisory Board.

In Europe in July 2009, together with Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright and Simone, Kidjo was part of a touring tribute to Nina Simone called "Sing The Truth".

The same month she sang a duet with Alicia Keys at Radio City Hall in New York for the 46664 concerts for Nelson Mandela's Foundation.

On August 28, 29 and 30, 2009, she participated in the Back2Black Festival devoted to African culture in Rio de Janeiro along with Gilberto Gil, Youssou N'Dour and Omara Portuondo.

On September 25, 26 and 27, 2009, the Festival D'Ile De France in Paris asked Kidjo to curate a tribute to her idol Miriam Makeba at the Cirque d'hiver. She invited Rokia Traoré, Dobet Gnahoré, Sayon Bamba Camara, Vusi Mahlasela, Asa and Ayo. Kidjo curated another version of the same show at the Barbican in London on November 21, 2009, with Baaba Maal replacing Rokia Traoré.

On October 23, 2009, she sang at the United Nations General Assembly for the UN Day Concert, A Tribute to Peacekeeping with Nile Rodgers, John McLaughlin and Lang Lang.

On December 4, 2009, in Cape Town, South Africa, she performed her song "Agolo" at the Final Draw of the Fifa World Cup 2010.

On December 7, 2009, on the opening day of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change summit, Kidjo sang, along with Anggun, Shaggy, Youssou N'Dour and Cheb Khaled, at the Dance 4 Climate Change concert.

On February 15, 2010, Kidjo performed in Vancouver for the Winter Olympic Games at the Place De La Francophonie.

On February 28, 2010, she performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert hall designed by Frank Gehry.

On June 10, 2010, she was part of the Official Kick-Off Celebration Concert of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, along with John Legend, Hugh Masekela, Shakira, Alicia Keys, Juanes and Black Eyed Peas.

On June 17, 2010, she performed at Les FrancoFolies de Montréal – the Montreal Francofolies festival of French-language music.

On August 30, 2010, Kidjo sang at the 30th Anniversary celebration of Solidarnosc in the Polish city of Gdańsk produced by Bob Wilson and Hal Willner featuring Philip Glass, Marianne Faithfull, Rufus Wainwright and Macy Gray.

On November 11, 2010, Kidjo presented her "Sound Of The Drum" show at Carnegie Hall. The sold-out concert featured special guests Youssou N'Dour, Omara Portuondo, Dianne Reeves and guitarist Romero Lubambo and told the story of the African roots of the music of the diaspora.

From December 10 until December 19, 2010, Kidjo participated in the Fesman 2010, the World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal. The Festival is the third edition of a festival devoted to African culture all over the world.

Kidjo was one of the performers at the BET Honours Awards in February 2011

On June 8, 2011, Kidjo performed her most famous songs with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra at the Philharmonie Luxembourg Hall.

On October 1, 2011, she created a special concert based on Beninese traditional songs with guest guitarist Lionel Loueke for the "Heroic Africans" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

On October 27, 2011, Kidjo performed at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar, following the screening of Mama Africa, a documentary about Miriam Makeba's life.

On December 10, 2011, Kidjo sang "Malaika" in Oslo at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman. Kidjo also performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert the next day along with Janelle Monáe, Evanescence, Sugarland, Jill Scott and many others. The event was hosted by Helen Mirren and Rosario Dawson.

On February 17, 2012, Kidjo performed for the opening of the Carnival of Recife, Brazil with Nana Vasconcelos and Maestro Forro

On February 28, 2012, the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and UNICEF presented a special Kidjo concert called "Raise your Voice to End Female Genital Mutilation" at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City. The Concert was produced by MGP Live.

On April 30, 2012, Kidjo was part of the International Jazz Day organized by UNESCO at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City, with Herbie Hancock, Terrence Blanchard, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Tony Bennett, Shaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masekela and many others.

Kidjo sang "Blewu", "Redemption Song" and "Toast to Freedom" at the "Electric Burma" concert in Dublin on June 18, 2012, honoring Aung San Suu Kyi. The concert was organized by Amnesty International and also featured Bono, Damien Rice, Vanessa Redgrave and many others.

On July 21, 2012, Kidjo performed with Baaba Maal, Hugh Masekela and King Sunny Ade on the African stage of the BT River of Music Festival organized for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

On October 9, 2012, Kidjo sang for the One World Concert in Syracuse, NY, honoring the Dalai Lama. The Concert was organized by the Syracuse University and featured also Dave Matthews, Swizz Beatz, Natasha Bedingfield, David Crosby, Counting Crows, Roberta Flack, Nelly Furtado, A. R. Rahman. Phil Ramone served as a music producer and Whoopi Goldberg as MC. Kidjo sang "Move On Up" and also "True Colors" as a duet with Cyndi Lauper.

On December 6, 2012, Kidjo joined the Alicia Keys's Keep A Child Alive Black Ball in Harlem at the Apollo Theatre along with Jennifer Hudson, Bonnie Raitt and Brittany Howard. Oprah Winfrey and Kidjo were honored for their humanitarian work at the ceremony. She sang "Pata Pata", "Afirika" and "Djin Djin" as a duet with Alicia Keys.

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.

On September 13, 2013, Kidjo sang at the legendary Rock in Rio Festival with the rock band Living Color.

On May 14, 2014, Kidjo sang at the famous Brazilian music award show "Prêmio da Música Brasileira" at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro.

On May 29, 2014, Kidjo sang with Brazilian singer Lenine and Portuguese guitar player Rui Veloso for the opening concert of The Rolling Stones at Rock in Rio Lisboa.

On November 5, 2014, Kidjo presented her "Mama Africa" tribute concert to Miriam Makeba at Carnegie Hall. The sold-out concert featured special guests Laura Mvula, Ezra Koenig and Vusi Mahlasela and was introduced by Whoopi Goldberg.

On July 10, 2015, Kidjo sang with the San Francisco Symphony at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. The program included Gershwin's "Summertime", IFÉ, her collaboration with Philip Glass and some songs from her album Sings.

October 3, 2015, saw the French sold out premiere of IFÉ, Three Yoruba songs, Kidjo's collaboration with Philip Glass at the Philharmonie De Paris with the Orchestre Lamoureux conducted by Gast Waltzing.

On November 5, 2015, the David Lynch Foundation organised another benefit concert at New York City's Carnegie Hall named "Change Begins Within" to promote transcendental meditation for stress control. Kidjo participated, as did Katy Perry, Sting, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim James and classical guitarist Sharon Isbin. Each of the performers actively practices transcendental meditation.

On July 10, 2016, Kidjo created the premiere of her "African Women All-Stars" concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival with special guests Aṣa, Dobet Gnaore, Lura and the Trio Teriba from Benin.

On September 24, 2016, Kidjo performed at the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American Culture and History in Washington appearing along with Patti LaBelle, Angela Bassett, Robert De Niro, Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and John Lewis.

On May 5, 2017, Kidjo presented her "Remain In Light" concert at Carnegie Hall. Her sold-out performance was a reinvention of the iconic album by the rock band Talking Heads. The concert included special guest Nona Hendryx, Lionel Loueke, Antibalas, Jason Lindner and an unplanned duet with David Byrne on the song "Once In A Lifetime".

On August 4, 2019, Kidjo appeared at the Late Night Prom of the BBC in London's Albert Hall

Kidjo sung an Hans Zimmer's arrangement of Imagine along with John Legend, Keith Urban and Alejandro Sanz during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on July 23, 2021

On September 30, 2021, Kidjo performed at the opening ceremony of Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE.

On November 16, 2021, Kidjo performed in Geneva, Switzerland with the Geneva Camerata in the Concert Prestige n.2 conducted by David Greilsammer, with arrangements by Jonathan Keren, and Francesco Ciniglio as the drummer.

Personal life

Kidjo married French musician and producer Jean Hébrail in 1987. Their daughter Naima was born 1993 in France.

In popular culture

  • Kidjo performed the original song "How Can I Tell You?" in the documentary Nasrin, released in October 2020, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.
  • In 2009, Kidjo released a version of "Redemption Song" on the compilation album Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.
  • Kidjo is one of the contributors of the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art of New York) project called "Design and Violence".

Discography

Albums

Title Year Peak chart positions
AUS
FRA
SWE
SWI
US
US
World

Pretty 1981
Ewa Ka Djo (Let's Dance)[citation needed] 1985
Parakou 1990
Logozo 1991 39 1
Ayé 1994 54 20 18 2
Fifa 1996 86 36 12 10
Oremi 1998 64 37 5
Keep On Moving: The Best of Angelique Kidjo 2001 10
Black Ivory Soul 2002 84 102 52 2
Oyaya! 2004 157 50 5
Djin Djin 2007 141 62 58 1
Õÿö 2010 4
Spirit Rising 2012 5
Eve 2014 1
Sings
(with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg)
2015 6
Remain in Light 2018 3
Celia 2019 73 8
Mother Nature 2021 27

Charted singles

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
AUS
GER
NOR
SWE
UK
US
Dance

"Wé-Wé" 1992 95 Logozo
"Agolo" 1994 57 8 35 Ayé
"Wombo Lombo" 1996 95 16 Fifa
"Tumba" 2002 26 Black Ivory Soul
"Salala"
(featuring Peter Gabriel)
2007 17 Djin Djin

Featured in

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
BEL
(Wa)

"Mama Africa"
(Kids United with Angélique Kidjo & Youssou Ndour)
2017 Tip Forever United (Kids United album)

Videography

Year Title Album Director Ref
1991 "Wé-Wé" Logozo Tom Watson
1991 "Batonga" Logozo Michel Meyer
1994 "Agolo" Ayé Michel Meyer
1994 "Adouma" Ayé
1996 "Wombo Lombo" Fifa Michel Meyer
1996 "Shango" Fifa
1998 "Voodoo Chile" Oremi
1998 "We Are One" Lion King II soundtrack
2007 "Gimme Shelter" (featuring Joss Stone) Djin Djin
2010 "Move On Up" Õÿö Kevin Custer
2012 PBS Special: Angelique Kidjo and Friends Spirit Rising Jim Gable
2014 "Eva" (featuring Asa) Eve Kevin Custer
2014 "Ekomole" (as featured artist of Dibi Dobo)
2018 "Born Under Punches" Remain In Light Jeff Bhasker
2018 "Once In A Lifetime" Remain In Light Antoine Paley
2019 "La Vida Es Un Carnaval" CELIA Chris Saunders
2021 "Dignity" (featuring Yemi Alade) Mother Nature
2021 "Africa, One Of A Kind" Mother Nature
2021 "Mother Nature" Mother Nature
2022 "Do Yourself" (featuring Burna Boy) Mother Nature Meji Alabi
2022 "Let Me Be Great" (as featured artist of Sampa The Great) As Above So Below

Soundtracks

Kidjo also recorded songs for various movies, TV shows and documentaries, among them:

TV shows

Kidjo has appeared on

She was the host of the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS in March 2010 and February 2014 and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in July 2010.

  • She appeared as "Aunt Angelique" in the "Pink Christmas" special of Neo Yokio in 2017.

Awards and recognition

On September 15, 2021, Time included her in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2010, the BBC Focus on Africa magazine included Kidjo in its list of the African continent's 50 most iconic figures, based on reader votes. and in 2020 she was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020. In 2011, The Guardian listed her as one of its Top 100 Women in art, film, music and fashion and Kidjo is the first woman to be listed among "The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa" by Forbes magazine. The Daily Telegraph in London described her as "The undisputed queen of African music" during the 2012 Olympic Games River of Music Festival. In March 2013, National Public Radio (NPR) in America, called her "Africa's greatest living diva". Kidjo is listed among the "2014 Most Influential Africans" by New African magazine and Jeune Afrique. Forbes Afrique put Kidjo on the cover of their "100 most influential women" issue in 2015. On June 6, 2013, Kidjo was elected vice-president of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC). She now resides in New York City,[non-primary source needed] where she is an occasional contributor to The New York Times. Kidjo has received honorary doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College of Music, Middlebury College and UCLouvain.

Kidjo is the recipient of the 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum of Davos in Switzerland and has received the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2016 She also is included in the exhibits at the National Museum of African American History that opened on September 24, 2016, on the National Mall.[citation needed] Other awards include:

  • Prix Découverte RFI SACEM (France, 1991)
  • Octave RFI (France, 1992)
  • Prix Afrique en Creation (France, 1992)
  • Danish Music Awards: Best Female Singer (Denmark, 1995)
  • Kora Music Awards: Best African Female artist (Africa, 1997)
  • Mobo Awards for Best World Music Act (UK, 2002)
  • Médaille De Vermeil De La Ville De Paris (France, 2004)
  • Africa-Festival Award (Germany, 2006)
  • SAFDA African Pride Award (South Africa, 2006)
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim Award (Canada, 2007)
  • N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for Outstanding World Music Album (USA, 2008)
  • Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album (USA, 2008)
  • Go Global World Music Award (Denmark, 2008)
  • Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic (Italy, 2008)
  • Commander of the National Order of Benin (Benin, 2008)
  • Making a Difference for Women Award from the National Council for Research on Women (USA, 2009)
  • Afropop Hall of Fame (USA, 2009)
  • Celebrating Women Award from the New York Women's Foundation (USA, 2009)
  • Premio Tenco Prize [it] for her entire singing career (Italy, 2009)
  • On May 8, 2010, Kidjo was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Berklee College (USA)
  • Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France, 2010)
  • Grand Prix Des Musiques Du Monde De La Sacem for her entire songwriting career (France, 2010)
  • Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary World Music Album (USA, 2011)
  • Prix Special de la Francophonie (Washington DC, USA, 2011)
  • Champions of the Earth Award (United Nations, 2011)
  • BET Awards nomination for Best International Act: Africa (USA, 2011)
  • Miroir Awards for World Music of the Festival d'été de Quebec (Canada, 2012)
  • Trophée Des Arts, FIAF French Institute, Alliance Française (New York, 2012)
  • Keep A Child Alive's Award for Outstanding Humanitarian Work, shared with Oprah Winfrey, (New York, 2012)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Diaspora Awards 2012
  • Songlines Music Awards in the Best Artist category (UK 2013)
  • On May 25, 2014, Kidjo was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts by Middlebury College (USA)
  • On June 4, 2014, Kidjo received the Arms Around The Child Award along with Jez Frampton during The Other Ball event in London hosted by Mark Ronson with Lily Allen, Florence and the Machine, Blood Orange and Rudimental
  • On October 28, 2014, Kidjo was awarded the Chair Citation by The Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists at the United Nations in New York. Past recipients include Bob Woodruff and Nicholas D. Kristof
  • On December 27, 2014, in Lagos, Nigeria, Kidjo won two All African Music Awards (AFRIMA): one for Best Contemporary Artist, one for Best Female Singer from West Africa.
  • Kidjo is the recipient of the 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum of Davos in Switzerland
  • On January 28, 2015, Kidjo was awarded the Visionary Leadership Award by the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album, on February 8, 2015; Kidjo won her second Grammy Award for "Eve", a tribute to the continent's women.
  • On February 9, 2015, Kidjo won the International Mappie Award given by the M-Magasin in Stockholm, Sweden
  • On May 6, 2015, Kidjo was awarded the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award in New York by Synergos. Past recipients include Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Jennifer and Peter Buffett, Mo Ibrahim.
  • On May 18, 2015, Kidjo was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Yale University (USA)
  • On October 6, 2015, Kidjo was awarded the Impact Award by the Population Council organization along with Elisabeth J McCormack.
  • Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album, on February 15, 2016; Kidjo won her third Grammy Award for her 2015 album, Sings.
  • Kidjo is the recipient of the 2016 AllAfrica Leadership Award
  • She has received the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2016
  • On June 23, 2016, Kidjo was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
  • On July 15, 2017, she has received the Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role from the Africa Movie Academy Awards for her role in Kunle Afolayan's movie, The CEO.
  • On November 16, 2017, Kidjo received the prestigious "Grand Prix Des Musiques Du Monde" from the Académie Charles Cros for her entire career, in conjunction with the release of the French version of her memoir "La Voix Est Le Miroir De l'Âme"
  • On February 24, 2018, Kidjo received the Charles de Ferry de Fontnouvelle Award from the Lycee Francais De New York. The following month she was added to the 2018 OkayAfrica 100 Women list. The organisers cited her talent and activism in making the award.
  • On June 14, 2018, she received the Prix De L'Artiste Citoyen 2018 from the Adami [fr], the French society of performers.
  • On October 21, 2018, Kidjo received the first World Pioneer Award during the Songlines magazine Music Awards 2018 ceremony at Electric Brixton in London. She sung a duet with Fatoumata Diawara backed by Mokoomba during the finale of the evening.
  • On December 7, 2018, she received the German Sustainability Award along with Richard Gere and Rea Garvey. The award is endorsed by the German Federal Government, local and business associations as well as numerous NGOs, among them UNESCO and UNICEF. The German Sustainability Award was established in 2008 to encourage the acceptance of social and ecological responsibility and to identify role models in this area.
  • Kidjo was awarded the 2019 Dutch Edison Award for her career in the Jazz and World category
  • On June 13, 2019, she was awarded the Musicultura Unimarche Prize by the Universities of Macerata and Camerino in Italy which is awarded to Italian and international personalities who have distinguished themselves in their careers for high artistic merits.
  • Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France, 2019)
  • 2020 Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts. Past recipients include Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, Audra McDonald, Bill T. Jones, Peter Brook and many more.
  • On January 27, 2020, Kidjo won the Grammy for Best world music album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards
  • On February 4, 2020, The UCLouvain University gave an Honorary Doctorate to Kidjo along with Nuccio Ordine and François Taddei
  • Kidjo's Grammy nominations include the Best Music Video of 1995 and Best World Music Album for works completed in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014 2015, 2019 and 2020.
  • Kidjo is the 4th laureate of the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award (2007). Created in 2004 on the 25th anniversary of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, each year the award is given to an artist distinguished in the field of world music whose influence on the evolution of jazz and cultural crossover is widely recognized.
  • On November 24, 2020, Kidjo was included in the 2020 BBC 100 Women list. The list compiles "the most inspiring and influential women in the World in 2020"
  • On January 1, 2021, she was awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest French award of merit along with Roberto Alagna and Yann Arthus Bertrand
  • On September 15, 2021, Time magazine included Kidjo in their Time 100 list.
  • March 2022, Forbes Woman Africa Entertainer Award.
  • On April 3, 2022, Kidjo's Mother Nature wins "Best Global Music Album" at the 64th Grammy awards.
  • On July 8, 2022, she was awarded the Premio Monini during the prestigious Spoleto Festival. Previous recipients include John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.
  • On September 4, 2022, Kidjo was inducted in the Headies Hall Of Fame
  • On November 8, 2022, She received the Path Breaker Award from the Safe Water Network
  • Kidjo received two nominations at the 65th Grammy Awards, for Best Global album for Queen of Sheba with Ibrahim Maalouf and for "Keep Rising" with Jessie Wilson from The Woman King soundtrack.
  • Kidjo is the recipient of the 2023 Vilcek Prize in Music given by the Vilcek Foundation. The Vilcek Foundation champions diversity for the advancement of the arts and sciences. We celebrate and invest in immigrant artists and scientists at every stage of their careers.
  • Kidjo is a recipient of the 2023 Polar Music Prize , considered to be the most prestigious Music Prize in the world. Past recipients include Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Miriam Makeba, Sting, Elton John and Paul Simon.
  • Kidjo was honored with the 2023 Carnegie Corporation of New York "Great Immigrants" Awards along with Alanis Morissette, Ke Huy Quan, and Pedro Pascal.
  • On July 13th 2023 she received the "Prix Nuits D'Afrique Pour La Francophonie" in the City Hall of Montreal

Dance/club hits

Kidjo's music has been remixed by famous producers including Norman Cook ("We We") and Tricky ("Agolo"). Several of her singles have reached the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart. In 1996, Junior Vasquez remixes of her song "Wombo Lombo" brought the song to Number 16. In 2002, King Britt remixes of her single "Tumba" helped the song reach Number 26. "Agolo" was remixed by Mark Kinchen, "Shango" was remixed by Junior Vasquez, and "Conga Habanera" was remixed by Jez Colin. "Salala" from, Djin Djin, was remixed in 2007 by Junior Vasquez and Radioactive Sandwich. "Move On Up" was remixed by Radioclit, the team from the Very Best.


This page was last updated at 2023-10-31 09:38 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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