Photo by Jed Root
It’s not often that you get the chance to come into contact with one of your own idols, yet alone have an extended discussion with them about everything from the current state of African politics to feminism; human rights and own personal heroes.
In preparation for the Globe Rocker feature in issue #84, I had a chat with Angélique Kidjo while she was in New York on her way to Australia for a gig. As ever, it was nigh impossible to cram everything that she had to say into a one-page piece, especially with someone as wonderfully verbose as Angélique, so I have decided to share with you some bits and pieces that didn’t make the final cut…
On Amy Winehouse and Adele:
“One of my greatest musical loves was Amy Winehouse. She was a great talent and I was so sad when she passed away. I had the chance to meet and hear her sing in the early 2000s and she was just so young and talented. But at the same time you could feel this fragility in her. I don’t know if anyone could have helped her or saved her, but for me, every time, with a talent like that, it’s just a tragedy when we lose them.
“And Adele [showing that no one is immune…] she’s another British talent who is just amazing. She sings wonderfully, she’s so young and yet already she sings right on the note. She’s so in tune, it’s freaking scary and moving.”
On the term ‘world music’:
“I never liked it. It’s always the rich countries that give us different names, so Africa is not a country, it’s the third world. Who decides what is what?
“Africa is the cradle of humanity, therefore if you call it third world, you’re denying where you come from. And it’s the same thing with music.
“In every media we’re talking about Africa and saying Africa is poor. Yet you have so many companies in Africa, they make billions of dollars every year, and yet none of them will stand up and say Africa is not poor. We are raping Africa out of its resources.
“We’re taking anything we can from the Africans, and we are stopping them from being self-sufficient and to stand on both of their feet, and the same thing goes with music. Africa has given so much to the world in music, I mean, blues would not exist… and rock and roll without blues doesn’t exist. But people go on denying to every single citizen of Africa, the right to be and to do whatever they want to do. So my question always is, is colonisation over, or is it still going on?
“Who has the right to dictate our lives? Who has the right to dictate that my music is world music? Who has this right to say I cannot be played on prime time? Who has got the right to decide that? The public is stupid enough not to listen to that, and we have feed the public with crappy music, because that’s the way it goes.”
“I’ve been raised by strong women. My grandmother, my mother, my aunties, taught me being a woman is a great blessing, and you shouldn’t let anyone take that away from you. It doesn’t matter what somebody says, without us there’s no humanity. It doesn’t matter how much a man tries to make you believe that you are under his watch, or under his thumb, he is much more under your thumb than you are, because he can’t live without you. What threat do we pose to men that they have to decide our fate? And they have to decide what we have to do, how we have to dress, how we have to talk? Who gives them that right, it’s not written anywhere that men have to dictate to women; what is it that they are afraid of?
“Denying that right to women is denying the right to yourself, because if you don’t like women, how can you love your children? It doesn’t make sense, the women are the mothers of your children, so if you don’t respect them, you don’t respect yourself, and it’s such a very weird dynamic, and I don’t understand how men can be so disrespectful towards women, and yet call them the mother of their children.”
On human rights:
“The law is weakened by human beings. Laws don’t serve justice, because if you have money, you get away free, even if it’s a sentence, then it is always different from the one that is poor, so this justice system, does it work for everybody or for just some people that play around with it?
“The same thing goes with human rights; does human rights apply to everybody, if yes, how can the rich countries justify what they do in Africa, knowing that what they are doing will jeopardise of the most vulnerable people, the women and the children?”
For the full feature, see our next issue (June 2012 #84) on sale April 27.