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Music for me is like a language - Angélique Kidjo 

Friday, June 4th, 2021 11:21am

By Jude Chukwuemeka

Kidjo lobbied the US music establishment to pay greater attention to African music

Grammy Award winner/superstar Angélique Kidjo has said Africa is a powerhouse of talents.

She revealed this to The Guardian in a video interview recently.

Over a career that spans five decades, the Beninese artist worked with professionals such as Gilberto Gil and Tony Allen, having four Grammy wins in “world music” categories.

On her new album, Mother Nature, her 15th, The Guardian revealed that she took sounds on which she has touched before – Cuban salsa, Congolese rumba, soul, jazz, and West African musical traditions – and blends them with modern African pop, in collaboration with a younger generation of stars including the Nigerians Burna Boy, Yemi Alade and Mr. Eazi and the Zambian rapper Sampa the Great. 

The songs on Mother Nature celebrate the continent’s cultural might and zeal while exploring urgent themes from the climate crisis to police brutality. At an age when some singers might coast, Kidjo sounds like a woman armed with a loudhailer and a placard.

The songs are intended to showcase the best of Africa. “They have something to say about where Africa is and where it is going,” she says. “This was really a delight – it gives me energy and a good feeling.”

Her winning album, Celia, adapted songs from the Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz – “one of my inspirations,” she says – drawing out the shared historical and musical synergy of West Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

For years, Kidjo has lobbied the US music establishment to pay greater attention to African music. “I was telling them that the new generations are gonna take you by storm – and the time has come.”

“Music for me is like a language; it’s such a powerful, transformative thing and we share it and add to it. I’ve never let any boundary stop me from being creative and taking music further,” she says with an indignant passion, almost as if I had suggested otherwise.

The future of African music is great, according to Kidjo. She spoke about Sampa the Great and Burna Boy, two of the young artists on Kidjo’s new album. She said they have something to say about where Africa is and where it is going. 

However, even though she is 60, she isn't relenting. “I’m always changing and innovating and this album is no different,” she says. “Change brings life to things; it keeps me going. In life, you never know what to expect.”

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