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Kidjo, Angelique

Angelique Kidjo

Singer

Got Start in Kidjo Brothers Band

Enthusiastic Stage Shows

Earned Success with Fifa

Selected discography

Sources

Angelique Kidjo, described as one of Africas most engaging, powerful and charismatic young female stars by Black Diasporas Brennan Marcano, has a music-without-frontiers style all of her own which seamlessly blends the indigenous songs of Benin, samba, zouk, classic funk influences such as James Brown, rock-salsa influences such as Santana, slick Caribbean pop dance music, Indian and Arabic tones, ma/cossafrom Cameroon, American gospel, and coolly ethereal jazz sounds. Her energetic rhythms are an original, musically diverse blend of global sounds that alternate infectious dance tracks with lyrical atmospheric balladsdelivered with soaring, sensual vocals, and often infused with hard-hitting political commentary. Aretha Franklin biographer David Ritz described Kidjo as one of the worlds greatest female vocalists.

After her massive hit single, Agolo, from Aye in 1993, Kidjo was placed squarely on the international music map. The video for Agolo was nominated for a Best Music Video Grammy Award. Kidjo released five successful albums between 1991 and 2002, each demonstrating her ability to experiment and to further elevate her distinctive sound. Kidjo, describing her music to her record labels publicity administrators said: Some call it Afro-funk; you can call it whatever you like, but really, its hard to put my music into one category. Even when I use my own traditional music, Im not trying to recreate just one style, I mix it all up.

Kidjos style is much more accessible to Western listeners than many other African artists because she uses the international dance floor as a common meeting ground. Although her music is rooted in African rhythms, her melodies are clear and haunting enough to prompt listeners to want to sing along, even when theyre sung in the African languages Fon and Yoruba.

Kidjo was born in the small coastal town of Quidah in Benin, an African country that encompasses numerous, diverse cultures and is located between Togo and Nigeria. Kidjo mostly sings in Benins primary language, Fon, but she also sings in Yoruba, English, and French. One of nine children born to a musician father and a theater director/choreographer mother, Kidjo performed as a child in a theater troupe run by her mother, starting when she was six, which is where she honed her impressive dance and performing skills. Her mother has been a major influence in her life and taught Kidjo much about dance choreography; her father, a guitarist, and his love of music, were significant influences as well.

Got Start in Kidjo Brothers Band

One of Kidjos brothers, also a guitarist, introduced her at a young age to the music of Santana. As a teenager, Kidjo sang with her brothers group, the Kidjo Brothers Band. Kidjo cites Santana, James Brown, Manu

For the Record

Born in Quidah, Benin; daughter of a musician father and a theater director/choreographer mother; married French producer/composer/bassist Jean Hebrail; children: Naima.

Performed as a child in a theater troupe run by her mother, and the Kidjo Brothers Band organized by her brother; toured Benins local music festivals and performed on the radio as a teenager; moved to Paris in 1983, briefly studied law; released Logozo, 1991, Aye, 1993, and Fifa, 1996, all on Mango Records; released Oremi on Island Records, 1998; released Black Ivory Soul on Columbia, 2002.

Addresses: Record company Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022, phone: (212) 833-8000. Website Angelique Kidjo Official Website. http://www.angeliquekidjo.com.

Dibango, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Cameo, the Commodores, Miriam Makeba, Aretha Franklin, and Roberta Flack as early musical influences, along with traditional Benin music and Indian music. While still in her teens, Kidjo began touring Benin, performing at local music festivals and on the radio. Women who sang professionally were generally looked down upon, so Kidjo was one of the few female artists in Benin, and as a result, she struggled twice as hard to achieve success. South African singer Miriam Makeba was an important role model for Kidjo at the time; Kidjo sang many of her songs, particularly the Swahili ballad Malaika, recorded on Kidjos second album, Logozo, in 1991.

Kidjo traces her ancestry to the female warrior Amazons of the ancient Fon kingdom, encompassing their fighting spirit; the same spirit that makes her a fiercely independent and principled artist. Kidjo left Benin mainly for political reasons; the country was still under Communist rule and musicians were forced to praise the government and the ideology of power, as Kidjo revealed to Interview, which I refused to do. She arrived in Paris in 1983 and embraced a melting pot of music. Many of Africas lauded musicians, like Salif Keita and Manu Dibango, were based there along with Caribbean, French and American musicians. The cross fertilization of world beat styles are echoed in Kidjos musical offerings, and Paris was the right environment at the time for Kidjo to develop her unique musical signature. She met bassist/composer/producer Jean Hebrail in Paris. The couple married and had a daughter named Naima, who serves as a source of inspiration for Kidjo.

Kidjo dominates her stage space and has a gift for true communication with an audience, which renders her live performances considerably more than just a musical experience. Her energetic dancing and impressive choreography present rounded entertainment. Her petite size, lithe muscularity, and short-cropped hair, often make her appear like a postmodernist version of a traditional African woman. Her shows are infused with a delightful playfulness that helps her escape the banality of studio sessions, and its clear that she enjoys interacting with the public. Even when Im singing alone in my studio, she tells Marcano, I imagine Im with the public.

Enthusiastic Stage Shows

Her shows are also marked by abundant double-time hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and singing-along feed-back from the audience. Its not unusual for audience members to invade the stage in an enthusiastic show of appreciation, underscoring the fact that the charismatic Kidjo and her high-octane dancing inspires unrestrained adulation. Kidjo told Billboards Elena Oumano, Dancing is very important in the vodun religion and in my country and culture. The body expresses your health and your soul. While Kidjo may still be flying just under the mainstream radar, Boston Herald writer Joel Brown notes, she has the potent voice and striking presence of a mainstream star. Whether sitting down to sing like a world-weary chanteuse or boogieing onstage with elated fans she command[s] attention.

Her 1996 third American release for Mango, Fifa, was inspired by Kidjos travels around Benin with her husband. Accustomed to singing in her native language, Fon, Kidjo decided to take a new direction by recording some of the songs on Fifa in English. Fifa means peace in Fon, and Kidjo wrote the song for her daughter to demonstrate her desire to raise her child in a peaceful world.

Earned Success with Fifa

The slickly produced Fifa was the most commercial of Kidjos offerings to that date, following Logozo in 1991 and Aye in 1993, with ten tracks and an accompanying video for Wombo Lombo. Kidjo pays tribute to the vodun culture of Benin on Fifa, and her video was accepted at television stations that wouldnt take her previous videos. Fifas Akwaba takes aim at unnamed leaders who betray their peoples trust, Houngbati is a hymn for the homeless, Bitchifi speaks to the materialistic when Kidjo asks, What did you bring with you on the day you were born? Share your heart, share your time. Carlos Santana bestowed his guitar prowess to Naima, a beautiful song penned by John Coltrane. Kidjo used 200 vocalists and musicians on Fifa. Kidjo told Marcano, Who knows the color of the spirit? What language does the spirit speak? Music is there to express your emotion, to speak to people, to be the link.

With her next album, Oremi, Kidjo began a trilogy that is meant to show the link between Africa and the world and how the slave trade affected the music and culture of the places touched by it. Oremi was released in 1998 on Island Records, which picked up Kidjo after it closed the Mango imprint in 1997. She explained the idea behind the trilogy to the Boston Herald Ive been following the route of the slaves. Oremi represents the first stop America and what the slaves brought to the music there. The musical style of Oremi, heavily influenced by R&B and soul music, was a departure from Kidjos usual style. Kidjo toured with Sarah McLachlans Lilith Fair in support of Oremi. The experience was an unusual one for her. There were no ego trips and no stars, Kidjo told the Washington Post. It was a weird experience to find such acceptance from international stars.

Kidjo made some changes between the release of Oremi and her next album, Black Ivory Soul, released in 2002. She moved from Paris to Brooklyn, New York, and signed a new contract with Columbia Records. Black Ivory Soul was the next installment of the trilogy. This album was inspired by a visit to Bahia, on the coast of Brazil. On her first journey to Bahia, Kidjo was amazed at the similarity between the Brazilian land and her home. Its the smell of the country. It smells exactly like Benin. I look around and the trees are the same, the food we eat is the same, and its called by the same name. I feel the same strength envelop me, she told the Boston Herald. Black Ivory Soul links Benin to Bahia, which was the first stopping point for many slaves.

As of late 2002, Kidjo had plans for the third album in the trilogy. The yet-to-be-titled album will be an exploration of the music of Cuba, Haiti, and New Orleans, which were the final destinations for many slaves. She became a United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) special representative in 2002, which was a logical step for Kidjo, who once thought about becoming a human rights lawyer while briefly enrolled in law school. Her position at UNICEF and her career as a musician complement each other. She expressed her beliefs and hopes in an interview with UNICEF: I believe music is a language beyond color of skin, country, or culture. I want to inspire people to get to work to help educate, nourish and protect our childrenthey are our chance to get it right.

Selected discography

Parakou, Mango/Island, 1990.

Logozo, Mango/Island, 1991.

Aye, Mango/Island, 1993.

Fifa, Mango/Island, 1996.

Oremi, Island, 1998.

Keep on Moving: The Best of Angelique Kidjo, Sony, 2001.

Black Ivory Soul, Columbia, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Audio-Gliphix, Volume One, Number 5, Spring 1996.

Billboard, April 13, 1996; May 23, 1998.

Black Diaspora, May 1996.

Boston Herald, July 1, 2002.

Courier-News, March 21, 1996.

Detroit Free Press, April 15, 1994.

Down Beat, April 2001.

Interview, May 2001.

LA. Weekly, April 12-18, 1996.

Los Angles Times, April 8, 1996.

Orange County Register, March 29, 1996.

People, April 8, 2002.

Pulse!, June 1994.

State Hornet, April 19, 1996.

Times (London, England), March 30, 2002.

Vibe, April 1996.

Washington Post, September 23, 1998.

Online

In Depth: Angelique Kidjo, In Depth with Bill Moyers, http://www.pbs.org/now/arts/kidjo.html (September 20, 2002).

Seeing the World with Angelique Kidjo, Showbiz Today, http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/showbiz.today/music.ontheroad/0206/21.html (September 20, 2002).

Singer Angelique Kidjo Appointed as UNICEF Special Representative, UNICEF, http://www.unicef.org/newsline/02pr48angelique.htm (September 20, 2002).

Additional information was provided by Mango/Island Records.

B. Kimberly Taylor

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Kidjo, Angelique

Angelique Kidjo

1960

Vocalist, songwriter

A powerful singer and tireless performer, Angelique Kidjo has been one of the most successful performers to emerge on world music stages in the 1990s and 2000s. Her music not only draws from African traditions but also interprets the ways those traditions developed after Africans were seized and taken to the New World. Thus elements of American soul, funk, rap, and jazz, Brazilian samba, Jamaican reggae, and Cuban and Puerto Rican salsa all show up on her recordings, along with various African styles. Early in her career she told Guardian reporter Jonathan Romney that "my records sound like dance music because that's the only way for Europeans to approach something they don't know," and as she evolved into one of the international music scene's most popular concert attractions, she accumulated a large fan base that happily came on stage and danced with her.

Kidjo is a native of Benin, on Africa's Atlantic coast adjacent to Nigeria; the first of her eight languages was Fon. She was born in the coastal city of Ouidah on July 14, 1960, to government postal official Franck Kidjo (an enthusiastic photographer and banjo player on the side) and his choreographer wife Yvonne. Kidjo was lucky enough to have parents who backed her performing ambitionsfemale popular vocalists are rare in many African countries, and, she told the Guardian, "It's very, very rare in Africa to find parents who aren't there mainly to stop you doing what you want."

Among her eight siblings were several brothers who started a band when she was young, inspired by James Brown and other American stars who flooded Benin's airwaves. Kidjo was musically eclectic from the start, listening avidly to juju sounds from neighboring Nigeria, to pop music from other African countries, to Cuban salsa music. But, asked by the Boston Globe to list her musical influences, she first named "the traditional music which I grew up with, [which taught] me the importance of music as a communication tool."

Raised in the Catholic Church, Kidjo found that its tenets were compatible with traditional African religious beliefs. "In Catholicism," she explained to Ira Band of the Toronto Star, "we're taught not to kill, to preserve human life. In voodoo-ism, we have a different Godyou live with the wind, the sea, the sun, you live with nature. It's a God of nature. Voodoo is seen as something negative, but it's not. It's based on anima and on respect for a human being's life."

Left Benin for Political Reasons

Kidjo made her stage debut at age six with her mother's dance troupe, and in the late 1970s she formed a band of her own and recorded an album that featured a cover version of a song by another of Kidjo's idols, South African singer Miriam Makeba. In 1980, however, Kidjo found her musical activities restricted by a new leftist regime that took power in Benin and tried to force her to record political anthems. Kidjo fled to Paris in 1983 with the intent of studying law there and becoming a human rights lawyer. But she realized that she was not cut out for political life. "I decided I would try to touch poor people with my music," she told the Globe.

Her partner in this enterprise was French bassist and composer Jean Hebrail, whom Kidjo married and with whom she has written much of her music; the pair has a daughter, Naima Laura, born in 1993. For several years Kidjo played in a French African jazz band called Pili Pili, led by pianist Jasper van t'Hof, but in 1989 she struck out on her own, forming a band and releasing the album Parakou. That debut had its intended effect: it attracted the attention of the biggest name in world music at the time, Chris Blackwell of Britain's Island Records. He signed Kidjo to the label's Mango subdivision, and her second album, Logozo, was released in 1991.

That album gained Kidjo a faithful core of fans who could be counted on to attend her highly participatory live shows. Her unusual image contributed to her success; in place of the expansive look of other African female vocalists, Kidjo sported a lean dancer's body clad in denim pants, and she cut her hair very close to her head. "On stage, I move too much to wear skirts," she explained to the Guardian. "I don't want to show off my assmy music isn't about sex." The music on Logozo skillfully mixed traditional African beats with hip-hop and electronic styles.

Recorded Traditional Musicians

The year 1994 saw Kidjo create a bona fide international hit; her Aye album received strong reviews and generated "Agolo," a dance-floor favorite throughout Africa and Europe. She followed that album up with Fifa, which grew from a set of tape recordings Kidjo and her husband made of traditional instrumentalists during a tour of small towns in Benin. The resulting disc mixed such sounds as cow horns, traditional flutes, and bamboo percussion with modern African pop, American gospel, and rap. The album, an ambitious effort that used roughly 200 musicians, featured a guest guitar solo from one of Kidjo's many admirers in the U.S. music industry, Carlos Santana.

Fifa included several songs in English, but Kidjo scoffed at the idea that she was singing in English for commercial reasons. "I do what pleases me," she told the Toronto Star. "I do the music I like. I don't know if it's going to be English or French or some African dialect. Music is music; it's all about communication." She believed that the sentiments in a piece of music could be understood even if the hearer were unfamiliar with the language of the text, and later in her career she encouraged the efforts of pop stars Sting and Celine Dion to sing in Spanish rather than English. One modern form of communication Kidjo adopted was the Internet; she established a website in 1996, well in advance of many Western pop stars. Backing up her claim that she was not affected by commercial considerations was her cancellation of an African tour that year when she discovered that it was to be sponsored by tobacco companies.

Kidjo's next three albums formed parts of a trilogy exploring African-derived music styles of the Western Hemisphere. Oremi, released in 1998 on the Island label itself after Mango's demise, was the U.S. chapter in the trilogy, mixing traditional music from Benin with black American styles and featuring a Kidjo cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." The album won Kidjo a spot on the all-female Lilith Fair tour in the U.S. A hiatus in Kidjo's recording career followed, during which she was signed to the Columbia label and began dividing her time between Paris and Brooklyn, New York.

At a Glance

Born July 14, 1960, in Ouidah, Benin; daughter of Franck (a government official) and Yvonne (a choreographer) Kidjo; moved to France, early 1980s; married Jean Hebrail (a composer and bassist); children: Naima. Education: Attended law school, Paris, France. Religion: Roman Catholic and traditional African voodoo.

Career: Recording artist, 1970s; Pili Pili, African jazz band member, early 1980s; Mango label artist, 1991-2001; Columbia label artist, 2001.

Addresses: Label Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Web www.angeliquekidjo.com.

Part of the reason for the move involved Kidjo's desire to work with American musicians like Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson and rock singer and bandleader Dave Matthews, with whom Kidjo toured in the summer of 2001. The following summer saw her on the road with Santana in the wake of his smash collaborative success Supernatural. Santana recorded "Adouma," a Kidjo song from the Aye album, on his 2002 release Shaman.

Followed Slave Routes Musically

In 2002 Kidjo returned to her African diaspora trilogy with Black Ivory Soul, an album that focused on the rhythms of the Brazilian state of Bahia, musically linked to Benin by centuries of the slave trade. "I've been following the route of the slaves," she told the Boston Herald in reference to the entire trilogy project. Kidjo recorded with contemporary Brazilian musicians Carlinhos Brown and Vinicius Cantuaria and included a cover of Gilberto Gil's classic song about Brazil's hillside slums, "Refavela." The All Music Guide opined that Black Ivory Soul "might just be her most consistent and satisfying effort to date."

Kidjo toured with a constantly changing complement of top-notch international musicians as she released new music. From 1994 onward, she was rarely off the road, and she was saddened that she rarely had time to visit her parents in Benin. Her shows, noted Beth Pearson of the Glasgow, Scotland Herald, "require a broad dancing repertoire from the audience," for Kidjo often invited audience members to come up on stage and join the dancers who were part of her show.

The final installment of her trilogy, 2004's Oyaya!, featured music from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean basin. The album included a duet with the octogenarian Guyanese-born French crooner Henri Salvador, and Kidjo also updated rumbas, salsa pieces, and other Caribbean dance music with a variety of African instruments and sounds that closed the transatlantic circle. Another force affecting the album was Kidjo's work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); in "Mutoto Kwanza," she set to Jamaican ska music a song she had learned in Tanzania from a group of HIV-infected orphans.

"To me, you don't think of her just in terms of world beat or African music. You have to think of Tina Turner or something, her whole dynamic energy up there," said New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival director Quint Davis (as quoted in the Boston Globe ) after Kidjo appeared at the festival in 2003. In a way, Kidjo had become a musical bridge-builder between Africa and the West. "I want to show you the links back to Africa," she told a Boston audience of children (as reported by the Boston Globe ) as she instructed her percussionist to break down the rhythms behind one highly danceable tune. "That's important for you to know."

Selected discography

Parakou, Island, 1989.

Logozo, Mango, 1991.

Aye, Mango, 1994.

Fifa, Mango, 1996.

Oremi, Island, 1998.

Keep On Moving: The Best of Angelique Kidjo, Sony, 2001.

Black Ivory Soul, Columbia, 2002.

Oyaya!, Columbia, 2004.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 39, Gale, 2002.

Periodicals

Australian, September 11, 1996, p. Local-7.

Boston Globe, July 22, 1993, p. Calendar-13; June 15, 2001, p. C14.; July 1, 2002, p. B10; June 22, 2003, p. N7.

Boston Herald, July 1, 2002.

Essence, June 2002, p. 82.

Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), October 2, 1992, p. C5.

Guardian (London, England), October 8, 1991; May 9, 1996, p. T15.

Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), October 29, 2004, p. 23.

Toronto Star, August 1, 1996, p. G10; June 17, 2004, p. G4.

Toronto Sun, April 4, 2002, p. 74.

Washington Post, August 16, 2003, p. C9.

On-line

"Angelique Kidjo," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (January 18, 2005).

James M. Manheim

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Kidjo, Anjelique

Anjelique Kidjo

Singer

Began in Benin

Intense Live Performer

Messages of Harmony

Selected discography

Sources

Anjelique Kidjo, described as one of Africas most engaging, powerful and charismatic young female stars by Black Diasporas Brennan Marcano, has a music-without-frontiers style all of her own which seamlessly blends the indigenous songs of Benin, samba, zouk, classic funk influences such as James Brown, rock-salsa influences such as Santana, slick caribbean pop dance music, Indian and Arabic tones, makossa from Cameroon, American gospel, and coolly ethereal jazz sounds. Her energetic rhythms are an original, musically diverse blend of global sounds that alternate infectious dance tracks with lyrical atmospheric balladsdelivered with soaring, sensual vocals, and often infused with hard-hitting political commentary. Aretha Franklin biographer David Ritz described Kidjo as, one of the worlds greatest female vocalists.

After her massive hit single, Agolo,from/Ayein 1993, Kidjo was placed squarely on the international music map. The video for Agolo was nominated for a Best Music Video Grammy Award. Kidjo released three successful albums between 1991 and 1996, each demonstrating her ability to experiment and to further elevate her distinctive sound to new levels. Kidjo, describing her music to her record labels publicity administrators said: Some call it Afro-funk; you can call it whatever you like, but really, its hard to put my music into one category. Even when I use my own traditional music, Im nottrying to recreate just one style, I mix it all up.

Kidjos style is much more accessible to Western listeners than many other African artists because she uses the international dance floor as a common meeting ground. Although her music is rooted in African rhythms, her melodies are clear and haunting enough to prompt listeners to want to sing along, even when theyre sung in the African languages Fon and Yoruba.

Began in Benin

Kidjo was born in the small coastal town of Quidah in Benin, an African country that encompasses numerous, diverse cultures and is located between Togo and Nigeria. Kidjo mostly sings in Benins primary language, Fon, but she also sings in Yoruba, English, and French. One of nine children born to a musician father and a theater director/choreographer mother, Kidjo performed as a child in a theater troupe run by her mother, starting when she was six, which is where she honed her impressive dance and performing skills. Her mother has been a major influence in her life and taught Kidjo much about dance choreography; her father, a guitarist, and his love of music, were significant influences as well.

For the Record

Born Anjelique Kidjo in Quidah, Benin; daughter of a musician father and a theater director/choreographer mother; married producer/composer/bassist Jean Hebrail, daughter Naima.

Performed as a child in a theater troupe run by her mother, and The Kidjo Brother Band organized by her brother. While teen-aged, toured Benins local music festivals and performed on the radio. Moved to Paris in 1983, briefly studied law; released Logozo in 1991, Aye in 1993, and Fifa in 1996, all on Mango Records; nominated for Best Music Video Grammy Award for Aye.

Address: Mango Records, 8920 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (310) 276-4500; Home page on the Internets World Wide Web: (http://www.-imaginet.fr/kidjo).

One of Kidjos brothers, also a guitarist, introduced her at a young age to the music of Santana. As a teenager, Kidjo sang with her brothers group, the Kidjo Brothers Band. Kidjo cites Santana, James Brown, Manu Diban-go, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Cameo, the Commodores, Miriam Makeba, Aretha Franklin, and Roberta Flack as early musical influences, along with traditional Benin music and Indian music. While still in her teens, Kidjo began touring Benin, performing at local music festivals and on the radio. Women who sang professionally were generally looked down upon, so Kidjo was one of the few female artists in Benin, and as a result, she struggled twice as hard to achieve success. South African singer Miriam Makeba was an important role model for Kidjo at the time; Kidjo sang many of her songs, particularly the Swahili ballad Malaika, recorded on Kidjos second album Logozo in 1991.

Kidjo traces her ancestry to the female warrior Amazons of the ancient Fon kingdom, encompassing their fighting spirit; the same spirit that makes her a fiercely independent and principled artist. She arrived in Paris in 1983 and embraced a melting pot of music. Many of Africas lauded musicians, like Salif Keita and Manu Dibango, were based there along with Caribbean, French and American musicians. The cross fertilization of world beat styles are echoed in Kidjos musical offerings, and Paris was the right environment at the time for Kidjo to develop her unique musical signature. She met bassist/composer/producer Jean Hebrail in Paris. The couple married and had a daughter named Naima who serves as a source of inspiration for Kidjo.

Intense Live Performer

Kidjo dominates her stage space and has a gift for true communication with an audience, which renders her live performances considerably more than just a musical experience. Her energetic dancing and impressive choreography present rounded entertainment. Her petite size, lithe muscularity, and short-cropped hair, often make her appear like a postmodernist version of a traditional African woman. Her shows are infused with a delightful playfulness that helps her escape the banality of studio sessions, and its clear that she enjoys interacting with the public. Even when Im singing alone in my studio, she tells Marcano, I imagine Im with the public.

Her shows are also marked by abundant double-time hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and singing-along feedback from the audience. Its not unusual for audience members to invade the stage in an enthusiastic show of appreciation, underscoring the fact that the charismatic Kidjo and her high-octane dancing inspires unrestrained adulation. Kidjo told Billboards Elena Oumano, Dancing is very important in the vodun religion and in my country and culture. The body expresses your health and your soul.

Messages of Harmony

Her 1996 third American release for Mango, Fifa, was inspired by Kidjos travels around Benin with her husband. Accustomed to singing in her native language, Fon, Kidjo decided to take a new direction by recording some of the songs on Fifa in English. Fifa means peace in Fon, and Kidjo wrote the song for her daughter to demonstrate her desire to raise her child in a peaceful world.

The slickly-produced Fifa is the most commercial of Kidjos offerings, following Logozo in 1991 and Aye in 1993, with ten tracks and an accompanying video for Wombo Lombo. Kidjo pays tribute to the vodun culture of Benin on Fifa, and her video was accepted at television stations that wouldnt take her previous videos. Kidjo also created her own home page on the Internets World Wide Web, emanating from France (http://www.-imaginet.fr/kidjo) and pages supporting her releases are posted on Polygrams Web site.

Fifas Akwaba takes aim at unnamed leaders who betray their peoples trust, Houngbati is a hymn for the homeless, Bitchifi speaks to the materialistic when Kidjo asks, What did you bring with you on the day you were born? Share your heart, share your time. Carlos Santana bestowed his guitar prowess to Naima, a beautiful song penned by John Coltrane. Kidjo used 200 vocalists and musicians on Fifa. Kidjo told Marcano, Who knows the color of the spirit? What language does the spirit speak? Music is there to express your emotion, to speak to people, to be the link.

Selected discography

Logozo, Mango Records, 1991.

Aye, Mango Records, 1993.

Fifa, Mango Records, 1996.

Sources

Audio-Gliphix, Volume One, Number 5, Spring 1996.

Billboard, April 13, 1996.

Black Diaspora, May 1996.

Courier-News, March 21, 1996.

Detroit Free Press, April 15, 1994.

L.A. Weekly, April 12-18, 1996.

Los Angles Times, April 8, 1996.

Orange County Register, March 29, 1996.

Pulse!, June 1994.

State Hornet, April 19, 1996.

Vibe, April 1996.

Additional source material was provided by Mango Records.

B. Kimberly Taylor

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Kidjo, Angélique

ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO

Born: Cotonou, Benin, 14 June 1960

Genre: World

Best-selling album since 1990: Keep on Moving: The Best of Angélique Kidjo (2001)


Angélique Kidjo is the most popular and successful African female vocalist to have emerged since the heyday of South African singer Miriam Makeba in the 1960s. Kidjo has managed to successfully create her own unique style of Afropop that is characterized by funky, African-based dance rhythms topped off by contagious Western pop-inspired melodic hooks sung with a rich, contralto voice so evocative and beautiful that Dave Matthews describes it as the "voice of God."

A native of Benin, located between Togo and Nigeria in West Africa, Kidjo was one of nine children born into a performing family. Her mother, a director and a choreographer, ran a local theater troupe in Ouidah, where Kidjo learned to dance, sing, and act from the age of six. Her father and brothers were guitarists and helped Kidjo master traditional Benin and Indian music as well as Western pop and rock music with the Kidjo Brothers Band as a teenager before she struck out on her own to perform on radio broadcasts and in music festivals throughout Benin.

A woman performing alone was still looked down upon in Benin culture; however, when government repression made it clear that Kidjo could not freely express herself, she fled the country and in 1983 moved to Paris to study law. While in Paris she met other exiled African and Caribbean musicians as well as French and American artists, all of whom helped her to learn and cross-fertilize the wide variety of international styles that would become part of her performing arsenal when she decided to pursue a music career. Kidjo joined the Afro-funk group Alafia before singing and recording Afro-jazz-rock fusion with Pili Pili. Then, in 1987, she formed her own band with French bassist, composer, and producer Jean Hebrail, who also became her husband. Together they recorded her first album in the West, Parakou (1990), as well as follow-ups.

Loganzo (1991) gave Kidjo her first commercial airplay with her first dance hit, "Batonga"; the album included a nod to her idol and role model Miriam Makeba, the Swahili ballad "Malaika," which Makeba had made famous. Joining Kidjo on her first major American tour as part of the 1992 African Fete were Branford Marsalis, who had performed on Loganzo, and Peter Gabriel.

The hit single "Agolo" from Ayé (1994) and its colorful Grammy Awardnominated music video further established Kidjo as an international star and as a staple of the dance club scene. Fifa (1996) is a salute to Kidjo's Benin roots and features the guitar work of Carlos Santana on "Naïma." Kidjo's dynamic voice has also been a regular presence on soundtracks of movies that have included a string of unrelated singles. The most popular of these was Kidjo's performance of "We Are One" for The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998).

Oremi (1998) ("my friends") is the first in a trilogy of albums that are part of a Kidjo-led guided tour of the music of the black diaspora. As a cultural ambassador Kidjo offers a statement of her own African roots but also seeks to demonstrate how African music has both influenced and been influenced by African-American musicians, especially those of the R&B variety. Oremi opens with an African send-up of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Guest performers on the album include Robbie Nevil, Cassandra Wilson, Branford Marsalis, and Kelly Price. Black Ivory Soul (2002) moves Kidjo's tour into South America; it is a festive exploration of the kinship between African and Brazilian music. Performing guests include Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson and Dave Matthews. The third album of the completed trilogy will explore the African connection to music of Haiti, Cuba, and New Orleans.

Kidjo mostly sings in Fon, Benin's primary language, but she also sings in Yoruba, French, and English. Part of Kidjo's unique ability to bond with her audiences while she performs is that singing was always a vital part of everyday life personally and publicly in Benin. The vital importance of dancing, a natural expression of Benin culture and of the voodoo religion that originated there, is also obvious as Kidjo contagiously gyrates her way through her concerts, often inspiring audience members to join with her in joyous jubilation.


SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Parakou (Aye, 1990); Loganzo (Mango/Island, 1991); Ayé (Mango/Island, 1994); Fifa (Mango/Island, 1996); Amazing Grace (Island, 1997); Oremi (Mango/Island, 1998); Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, Volume 2 (Arista, 1999); Keep on Moving: The Best of Angélique Kidjo (Wrasse Columbia, 2001); Black Ivory Soul (Columbia, 2002); Cover the World: World Music Versions of Classic Pop Hits (Putumayo World Music, 2003). Soundtracks: Street Fighter (MCA, 1994); Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (MCA, 1995); Lion King II: Simba's Pride (Disney, 1998); The Wild Thornberrys Movie (Jive, 2002); The Truth About Charlie (Sony, 2002); People I Know (Universal, 2003).


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. McGovern, Musichound World: The Essential Album Guide (New York, 2000).


WEBSITE:

www.angeliquekidjo.com.

dennis polkow

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"Kidjo, Angélique." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Kidjo, Angélique." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kidjo-angelique

"Kidjo, Angélique." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kidjo-angelique