July Feature: Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo is among the best known, most influential and most highly honored of contemporary African music performers. She's been included in BBC and Forbes lists of influential Africans and placed among the most inspiring women in the world by the Guardian. She's also been honored with scores of awards including a Grammy, NAACP Image Award, Kora Award, Antonio Carlos Jobim Award, Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic, and Commander of the National Order of Benin, to name but a few. She's critically acclaimed for her powerful singing, exuberant performances, and vibrant and eclectic style that draws on African, jazz, rock and other influences. Kidjo has also been active in a variety of humanitarian efforts - named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, setting up the Batonga Foundation to support education for girls, and assisting in a variety of efforts for AIDS eradication, sustainable development, women's rights and more.
Kidjo was born in Benin on July 14, 1960. She grew up listening not only to traditional music of Benin, but also music from other parts of African, along with American soul, rock and jazz (influences she saluted on her album, Oyo). She began recording and performing while still in Benin, releasing her first album, Pretty, in 1980, to great success in western Africa. She relocated to Paris in the early '80s, where she studied jazz, worked in a fusion band, released a self-produced album, Parakou, and became a popular performer in the city. With Logozo, her debut album on Island in 1991, Kidjo immediately established herself as a popular international artist. She followed with a series of successful and powerful releases that explored her diverse musical interests, including music of the African diaspora, and Latin and Caribbean styles. This year she released her first live album, Spirit Rising, from a special she did for public television. Kidjo has also worked with a who's who of artists over the years, including Dave Matthews, Cassandra Wilson, Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, and more. She tours regularly and extensively, and has appeared at such prestigious events and venues as the Nobel Prize Concert, the World Cup Kickoff Concert, Mandela Day and Carnegie Hall.
Throughout July, Global Village highlights the music of Angelique Kidjo, from her early recordings to her latest project, along with the many guest appearances she has made with a diverse array of artists over the years.
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A live version of one of Kidjo's most popular numbers, her version of the Hendrix tune, "Voodoo Child":
Angelique Kidjo and Alicia Keys sing "Afrika" at the Radio City Music Hall Mandela Day Concert:
Angelique Kidjo sings Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" at her recent Spirit Rising performance: