“This Album Is Dedicated To The Women Of Africa”
Celebrating her second Grammy Award, we are celebrating a career of lively music, a humble personality and a warm heart: Angélique Kidjo is the Naija Living Crush of the Week.
Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, known as Angélique Kidjo (born July 14, 1960), is a singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, well-known for her diverse musical influence ranging from Afropop to Latin.
Kidjo has been widely recognised by various publications:
Kidjo is the first woman to be listed amongst “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa” by Forbes magazine. Time magazine labelled her “Africa’s premier diva”. The Guardian listed her as one of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World and BBC has encompassed Kidjo in the list of African continent’s 50 most iconic figures. Kidjo is also listed among the “2014 Most Influential Africans” by New African magazine and Jeune Afrique.
On June 6, 2013, Kidjo was elected vice-president of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d´Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC).
Born in Cotonou, Benin, Kidjo’s father belongs to the Fon people of Ouidah and her mother is from the Yoruba people. Growing up, she was surrounded by Beninese traditional music, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. By the age of six, Kidjo was performing with her mother’s theatre troupe, providing her with exposure and giving her an early appreciation for traditional music and dance.
She recorded the album Pretty with the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar, featuring songs like “Ninive” and “Gbe Agossi”. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. However, political instability in Benin hindered her chances as an independent artist in her own country and she relocated to Paris in 1983.
Self-funding her studies, Kidjo studied music at the CIM, a prestigious jazz school in Paris. Here she met musician and producer Jean Hebrail, who became a frequent composer for most of her music.
Starting off as a backup singer in local bands, in 1985, she became the front singer of the known Euro-African jazz/rock band Jasper van’t Hof’s Pili Pili. With the band, she produced studio albums followed: Jakko (1987), Be In Two Minds (1988) 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.
Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, who signed Kidjo with the label in 1991, discovered Kidjo in Paris. She recorded four albums for Island Records. In 2000 she was signed in New York by Columbia Records, for which she recorded two albums.
Amongst her activist work, some very notable ones are:
- UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. Kidjo has travelled to many countries in Africa, Benin, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Syria, to name a few.
- Along with Mary Louise Cohen and John R. Phillips, Kidjo is the founder of The Batonga Foundation, which provides for girls in Africa with a secondary school and higher education. The foundation grants scholarships, focuses on improving teaching standards and advocating for community awareness of the value of education for girls, amongst many other aims and goals.
- Kidjo has also campaigned for Oxfam at the 2005 Hong Kong WTO meeting, for the Fair Trade Campaign.
- Since March 2009, Kidjo has been campaigning for “Africa for women’s rights”. The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) launched this campaign.
- Angélique Kidjo was a LiveEarth Ambassador for the 2010 Run For Water events.
- In 2010, the Commission of the African Union (AU) Angélique Kidjo as one of 14 Peace Ambassadors to support the 2010 Year of Peace and Security programme.
- In 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 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.
Kidjo has received many awards for her contribution towards the music industry, worldwide. Her most notable awards include:
- Mobo Awards for Best World Music Act (UK, 2002)
- Grammy nominations include the Best Music Video of 1995 and Best World Music Album in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2007, which she won.
- Antonio Carlos Jobim Award (Canada, 2007)
- Djin Djin, the album, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music album (USA, 2008) and a
- Djin Djin also won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding World Music album.
- BET Awards nomination for Best International Act: Africa (USA, 2011).
- Grammy Award, on February 8, 2015, Kidjo won her second Grammy for World Music album for “Eve,” a tribute to the continent’s women.