As one of Africa’s most beloved female artists, singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo is widely recognised for her contributions to the African musical genre. The Grammy Award-winning performer and activist is recognised for a diverse musical style and unique music videos. Widely regarded as the Queen of African Music, Kidjo’s influence continues to inspire music lovers like Tunde Folawiyo and millions of others around the globe.
Born in the Beninese city of Cotonou, Kidjo’s mother and father were of the Fon and Ouidah people, respectively. As a child, she began listening to traditional music from Benin, as well as other popular artists like James Brown, Miriam Makeba, Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Otis Redding. By age six, the singer had performed with a theatre troupe and developed an appreciation for music and dance. She found success during her teen years with a cover of singer Miriam Makeba’s song that played on national radio, skyrocketing her popularity. Her eclectic musical style was influenced by a variety of genres, most notably Afropop, jazz, gospel, Congolese rumba and Caribbean zouk. Through a collaboration with her brother and Ekambi Brilliant, a Cameroonian producer, Kidjo recorded Pretty, an album featuring songs such as “Ninive” and “Gbe Agossi”, as well as a tribute honouring Bella Bellow, a longtime role model of hers. With the success of this album brought opportunities for travel. The singer ventured all across West Africa on her quest to fame, though political conflict in Benin led to her relocation to Paris during 1983.
Kidjo’s career has seen her collaborate with some of music’s most beloved artists including Alicia Keys, Bono, John Legend, Carlos Santana and Dave Matthews. She has also covered a variety of well-known songs by other esteemed artists, including Jimi Hendrix and George Gershwin with her own hit songs including “We We”, “Wombo Lombo”, “Batonga”, “Afirika” and “Malaika”.
Fluent in French, Fon, Yoruba and English, Kidjo sings in four languages, also developing a personal language along the way. She utilizes a traditional Beninese Zilin technique for her vocals, as well as jazz vocalese. Throughout her career, she has garnered many honours celebrating her contributions to the world of music. The Guardian once listed her amongst the world’s 100 most inspiring females with the BBC listing her amongst Africa’s most iconic figures. Today, the singer contributes occasionally to the popular New York Times and was elected the vice-president for CISAC during June of 2013. These accomplishments have garnered her worldwide fanfare, inspiring fans of African music such as Tunde Folawiyo and millions of others around the globe. Subscribe to Tunde Folawiyo YouTube channel for a closer look at his life in Africa.