Angélique Kidjo Profile
(Photo: Sonia and Mauro)
The Benin-born singer Angélique Kidjo is a global superstar – a leading figure in African music as well as being a prominent activist and ambassador for UNICEF. In 2018 Kidjo won the Songlines World Pioneer Award.
There was really only one obvious successor to Miriam Makeba’s crown as ‘Mama Africa’ – the Benin-born Angélique Kidjo. In a career lasting more than 30 years, her music has mixed African traditional styles with just about every genre under the sun while she has travelled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and to promote African sisterhood and unity through her singing.
Born in 1960 in Cotonou, Dahomey (as Benin was then known), she grew up listening both to traditional African styles and the global sounds of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Santana. By the time she arrived in Paris at the age of 23 she was already an established performer in West Africa and her international breakthrough came in 1991 when she signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. There followed a string of spectacular albums, which grew forever more adventurous, while her dynamic stage presence has made her a festival favourite the world over.
Her sense of musical adventure was never more evident than on a trilogy of albums – Oremi, Black Ivory Soul and Oyaya! – released between 1998 and 2004 on which she explored the African roots of the music of the Americas. Other career highlights include the thrilling eclectic Õÿö, mixing traditional music, Makeba songs, classic soul of the 1960s and 1970s and even a Bollywood tune, and 2014s Grammy-winning EVE on which she collaborated with women’s choirs from across Africa.
The following year she won another Grammy for Angélique Kidjo Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg, which featured orchestrated versions of some of her best-known songs.