Angélique Kidjo is one of Africa’s most accomplished musicians and made a significant contribution to the adoption of African beats on the world music stage. Kidjo has won four GRAMMY awards and bagged an impressive three Billboard No. 1 hits and 14 Top 10 hits during a career that has span nearly four decades.
Angélique Kidjo’s long road to success
Angélique Kidjo was born on 14 July 1960 in Ouidah, a historical town in Benin famous for its role in slave trade from the 1700s for two centuries. She inherited her musical genes from her Beninese father and learnt performing arts from her Nigerian mother who was a choreographer and theatre director. Like many musical legends, Kidjo started performing at the young age of six, formed a band in her teens and was a professional singer by 20. She made her way to Paris in 1983 where she studied jazz and enjoyed modest success as a backup singer and live performer.
Kidjo burst on the world stage in 1991 after signing up with Island Records and releasing Logozo which is ranked No. 37 on Vice.com’s list of The 99 Greatest Dance Albums of All Time. Kidjo created a signature Afropop sound which blends elements of disco and house fused with Beninese traditional music, Congolese rumba, jazz and Caribbean zouk. Her signature musical style is upbeat and high energy, designed to get people swaying on the dance floors from Los Angeles to Lagos to Laos. She has produced 14 albums in the 30 years since she got her big break and her latest album, Mother Nature, was released on 18 June 2021.
Angélique Kidjo’s latest album: Mother Nature (2021)
Mother Nature has the potential to eclipse the success of Logozo and become a huge hit with both Kidjo’s traditional fanbase (Baby Boomers and Gen X) and younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z). Kidjo has collaborated with some of the Africa’s biggest stars such as Yemi Alade (Nigerian) and rising stars, Sampa the Great (Zambian) and Shungudzo (Zimbabwean) to create a 13-track masterpiece with massive intergenerational appeal.
Angélique Kidjo honours the year of her birth (1960) with the track One Africa (Indépendence Cha-Cha) which saw 14 African countries gain independence from France. Despite the sobering message that the dreams that many Africans held at independence have since been crushed, this will be the track playing on dance floors from Abidjan to Ouagadougou as seven former colonies celebrate independence day during the month of August.
Flying High is my personal favourite which reminds us all that “life is so beautiful” and that we can choose to fly high despite the setbacks, confusion and struggles we face in our daily lives. This song captures the essence of the African spirit of resilience, hope and community.
Angélique Kidjo’s music is influenced by current events and a desire to motivate and encourage Africans to do right by themselves. Dignity with Yemi Alade was inspired by the youth-led protests against police brutality that started in October 2020. Do Yourself, which Burna Boy wrote, is a catchy-song with a serious message for Africans to take more initiative. Meant for Me with Shungudzo and Free & Equal with Sampa the Great are great dance tracks for the youth while the older generations will appreciate Omon Oba with Zeynab & Lionel Loueke and Africa, One Of A Kind with Mr Eazi and Salif Keita.
The only French track on the album, Mycelium with Matthieu Chedid aka M, should have been the theme song for the blockbuster French mystery thriller, Lupin. It is haunting, elegant and set at a slower tempo than other tracks.
Wishing Angélique Kidjo a happy birthday today
As Angélique Kidjo continues to pave the road to success for others, ONGOLO joins the rest of Africa in wishing the Queen of Afropop the happiest 61st birthday.
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