It’s Woman Crush Wednesday again and we are focused on a phenomenal woman today, the person of
Angélique Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Kpasseloko Manta Zogbin Kidjo, popularly known by her stage name Angélique Kidjo.
She was born on July 14, 1960 in Benin. She is a singer-songwriter, actress, and activist who has won five Grammy Awards. Kidjo was born into a performing arts household. Her mother worked as a theater director and choreographer, while her father was a musician.
Also with her early musical heroes Bella Bellow, James Brown, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, Jimi Hendrix, Miriam Makeba, and Carlos Santana, she draws inspiration from Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin music. She has worked with artists such as Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Price, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, Philip Glass, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Yo-Yo Ma, Carlos Santana, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Josh Groban, Dr. John, the Kronos Quartet, Yemi Alade, Cassandra Wilson, Burna Boy, Sting, Mr. Eazi, and Indonesian pop star Mr. Eazi A few of Kidjo’s popular songs are “Agolo,” “We We,” “Adouma,” “Wombo Lombo,” “Afirika,” and “Batonga,” and her version of “Malaika” The Greatest Dance Albums of All Time list created by Vice magazine’s Thump website has her album Logozo at number 37.
The five languages that Kidjo are fluent in are Fon, French, Yoruba, Gen (Mina), and English. She sings in each of them as well as in her own dialect, which contains terms like “Batonga” that are used as song titles. The Swahili song “Malaika” is performed. Kidjo frequently employs vocalese and traditional Zilin vocalizations from Benin.
When she was a teenager, she achieved fame with her cover of Miriam Makeba’s “Les Trois Z,” which was carried on public radio. She began singing in her school band, Les Sphinx. Together with her brother Oscar and the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant, Kidjo made the album Pretty. It included the songs “Ninive,” “Gbe Agossi,” and homage to Bella Bellow, a vocalist who served as one of her idols. She was able to tour throughout West Africa because to the album’s success. She moved to Paris in 1983 because the ongoing political unrest in Benin prevented her from working as an independent artist there.
Kidjo studied music at the CIM, a prominent jazz school in Paris, while working several day jobs to pay for her tuition. There, she met musician and producer Jean Hebrail, with whom she co-wrote the majority of her music and whom she married in 1987. She got her start in local bands as a backup singer. She was hired as the lead vocalist of Jasper van ‘t Hof’s Euro-African jazz/rock group Pili Pili in 1985. Jakko (1987), Be In Two Minds (1988, produced by Marlon Klein), and Hotel Babo (1989) were the next three Pili Pili studio albums (1990). She had established herself as one of the most well-liked live artists in Paris by the end of the 1980s and had cut a solo album for the Open Jazz Label titled Parakou.
Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, subsequently “discovered” her in Paris and signed her in 1991. She produced four albums for Island before Blackwell left the company. She was signed by Columbia Records in New York in 2000, and she cut two albums for them. She collaborated with numerous artists from around Africa and beyond on a variety of song genres.
Since 2002, Kidjo has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa with UNICEF. Accounts of her travels to Benin, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Syria, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Haiti can be found on the UNICEF website.
Kidjo established The Batonga Foundation, which equips some of the most challenged and difficult-to-reach young women and girls in Benin with the knowledge and abilities they need to be change agents in their own lives and communities, along with Mary Louise Cohen and John R. Phillips. By identifying the most at-risk adolescent girls in Benin and linking them with girl-centered safe spaces run by Beninese women, Batonga achieves this.
Young women and girls can receive training in these safe spaces to help them develop their social capital and learn new financial literacy skills. She spoke for Oxfam at the 2005 WTO summit in Hong Kong for their Fair Trade Campaign, traveled with them in 2007 with a group of women leaders to the border of Darfur and Chad, and took part in the In My Name Campaign film.
She has received more than 70 awards, and she’s continually winning more, in addition to African and worldwide recognition for music and humanitarianism. In 1987, Kidjo wed the French musician and producer Jean Hébrail. Their child Naima was born in France in 1993.
Source: Forbes Africa