Africa’s Premier Diva - Angélique KidjoNov 27, 2020 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Born in Ouidah, Benin in 1960, Angélique Kidjo grew up in a family of artists which would lead her to a successful music career. At the age of six, she began performing in her mother’s theatre troupe, and, as a teenager, sang with her brothers in their band. It was in 1988, at the age of 22, that she recorded her album titled Pretty and toured all over West Africa.
Unfortunately due to political conflicts, Kidjo had to leave her home country and move to Paris in the 1980s. She intended to study law to become a human rights lawyer but ended up at Le CIM, a reputable jazz school, where she studied music. In Paris she met French bassist and composer Jean Hebrail with whom she has composed most of her music and whom she married in 1987. In 1985, she became the front singer for Pili Pili, a French African jazz band, and left the band to record her second album Parakou. It was this album that led her to be signed to Britain's Island Records with whom she would release four more albums.
In 2000 Kidjo was signed by Columbia Records in New York where she recorded two albums. Kidjo has collaborated with many popular musicians such as Josh Groban, Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Ziggy Marley. She won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008 for Djin Djin. Her 12th studio album, Eve, won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015. Her latest album, Celia, which is a tribute to the late Cuban singer Celia Cruz, won this year’s Best World Music Album.
Kidjo has been a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador since 2002 and traveled to Benin, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania. She is also an Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM) Campaigner. At the G7 Summit in 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron named Kidjo as the spokesperson for the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative to help close the financing gap for women entrepreneurs in Africa.
Kidjo launched the Batonga Foundation in 2007 that focuses on empowering young women and girls in Africa through secondary school and higher education. Kidjo has used her powerful voice and musical talents to bring awareness to issues she is passionate about. In 2017, she along with seven of Benin’s greatest artists joined forces to create a song calling on the population to say no to child marriage, as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage. She has sung for world leaders at the 2015 UN General Assembly in New York.
“I believe music is a language beyond the color of skin, country, or culture. I want to inspire people to work to help educate, nourish and protect our children.” - Angélique Kidjo
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.