Angelique Kidjo :: Biography

Angelique Kidjo was born on July 14, 1960, in Benin. Her father is from the Fon people of Ouidah and her mother is from the Yoruba. She grew up listening to Beninese traditional music, Fela Kuti, 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.

Kidjo has been received many accolades, including "Africa's premier diva," "The undisputed queen of African music," the first woman to be listed among Forbes' "40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa" and was listed among the "2014 Most Influential Africans" by New African magazine and Jeune Afrique. Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and activist Kidjo is also noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos.

On June 6, 2013, Kidjo was elected vice-president of the Confederation Internationale des Societes d'Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC). She now resides in New York City, where she is an occasional contributor to the New York Times. Kidjo has received Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College of Music and Middlebury College

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, Jimi Hendrix, Miriam Makeba and Carlos Santana. She has recorded George Gershwin's "Summertime", Ravel's Bolero, 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 and Cassandra Wilson. Kidjo's hit songs include "Agolo", "We We", "Adouma", "Wombo Lombo", "Afirika", "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 web site.

Kidjo is fluent in Fon, French, Yoruba and English, and sings in all four languages; 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 utilizes Benin's traditional Zilin vocal technique and jazz vocalese.

Recently, Kidjo added "Actor" to her long list of accolades as she featured in 2015 Nollywood movie, "The CEO."

Kidjo is the recipient of the 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum of Davos in Switzerland and has received the Ambassador Of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2016.


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