Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, popularly known as Angélique Kidjo was born July 14, 1960, is a Beninese-American singer-songwriter, actress, and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. In 2007, Time magazine called her “Africa’s premier diva”.
Kidjo was born in Ouidah, Benin. Her father is from the Fon people of Ouidah and her mother from the Yoruba people. She grew up listening to Beninese traditional music, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, James Brown, Manu Dibango, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Osibisa, and Santana. By the time she was six, Kidjo was performing with her mother’s theatre troupe, giving her an early appreciation for traditional music and dance. She started singing in her school band, Les Sphinx, and found success as a teenager with her adaptation of Miriam Makeba’s “Les Trois Z”, which played on national radio. She recorded the album Pretty with the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar. It featured the songs “Ninive”, “Gbe Agossi” and a tribute to the singer Bella Bellow, one of her role models. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. Continuing political conflicts in Benin prevented her from being an independent artist in her own country and led her to relocate to Paris in 1983.
Her musical influences include the Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin styles; as well as her childhood idols Bella Bellow, James Brown, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, Jimi Hendrix, Miriam Makeba and Carlos Santana. She has recorded George Gershwin’s “Summertime”, Ravel’s Boléro, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, and has collaborated with Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Price, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, Philip Glass, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Carlos Santana, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Josh Groban, Dr John, the Kronos Quartet, Yemi Alade, Cassandra Wilson and Indonesia’s pop star Anggun. Kidjo’s hit songs include “Agolo”, “We We”, “Adouma”, “Wombo Lombo”, “Afrika”, “Batonga”, and her version of “Malaika”. Her album Logozo is ranked number 37 in the Greatest Dance Albums of All Time list compiled by Vice magazine’s Thump website.
Angelique is fluent in five languages: Fon, French, Yorùbá, Gen (Mina), and English. She sings in all of them, and she also has her own personal language, which includes words that serve as song titles such as “Batonga”. “Malaika” is a song sung in the Swahili language. Kidjo often uses Benin’s traditional Zilin vocal technique and vocalese.
She is a recipient of many awards and recognitions.
In 2010, the BBC’s Focus On Africa Magazine included Kidjo in its list of the African continent’s 50 most iconic figures, based on reader votes. In 2011, The Guardian listed her as one of its Top 100 Women in art, film, music and fashion and Kidjo is the first woman to be listed among “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa” by Forbes magazine. The Daily Telegraph in London described her as “The undisputed queen of African music” during the 2012 Olympic Games River of Music Festival.
Kidjo has received Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College of Music, Middlebury College and UCLouvain.
She won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album in USA, 2008. On January 27, 2020, Angelique won the Grammy for Best world music album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards
Recently, February 4, 2020, The UCLouvain University gave an Honorary Doctorate to Angelique Kidjo along with Nuccio Ordine and François Taddei.
All these are to mention but a few. Well done Queen!
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