14th March 2014
Three-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest and most unique artists in international music today, a creative force with thirteen albums to her name. Time Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”. The BBC has included her in its list of the continent’s 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011 The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angelique as the first woman in their list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.
As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has taken the West African traditions of her Beninese childhood and cross-pollinated them with her myriad musical influences, spanning R&B, funk, jazz, gospel, pop, Latin, reggae, and so much more. Along with her own wide-ranging catalog, Kidjo has collaborated with virtually every major artist of the era, including Bono, Peter Gabriel, John Legend, Gilberto Gil, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews, Philip Glass, Ziggy Marley, Henri Salvador, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Dr. John, Cassandra Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, and the San Francisco Symphony, among many others.
Her star-studded album DJIN DJIN won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008, and her album OYO was nominated for the same award in 2011. In January 2014 Angélique’s first book, a memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins), and her twelfth album, EVE (Savoy/429 Records), were released to critical acclaim. EVE later went on to with the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015.
In 2015, Kidjo released Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg. The visionary songwriter and vocalist teams with the ensemble’s renowned conductor and composer Gast Waltzing to create an historic work that beautifully blends the classical music traditions of Europe and the powerful rhythmic excitement of the sounds of her native land. SINGS has garnered Angelique her 8th Grammy win (for Best World Music Album). Angelique has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies including the Bruckner Orchestra, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Her collaboration with Philip Glass, title IFÉ: Three Yorùbá Songs, made its US debut to a sold-out concert with the San Francisco Symphony in June 2015.
On May 5th 2017, Kidjo presented a full-length performance of Talking Heads Milestone album Remain In Light at Carnegie Hall in NYC. The performance by Kidjo and her band, complete with powerful new arrangements, earned her critical acclaim by media outlets like The New York Times and The New Yorker. The full length reimagining of Remain In Light, produced by Grammy Award winner Jeff Bhasker (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Marc Ronson, Fun), will be released at a later date.
Angelique is a committed philanthropist and champion of women and children’s rights around the world. She cofounded the Batonga Foundation in 2006, which equips Benin’s most vulnerable girls with knowledge and skills they need to become agents of change in their communities and in their own lives. Growing up in Benin, Angelique was one of few girls who had the opportunity to pursue an education. She invented the word “Batonga” as a defiant response to classmates and critics who told her girls did not belong in school. Today, the Batonga Foundation takes a data-driven approach to foster change by creating a new paradigm in which all girls are valued and where their economic, social and civic potential is expanded. She also travels the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF and OXFAM Goodwill Ambassador.
Angelique watches as Girls Club members make soap.
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