Angélique Kidjo’s voice reflects her soul

BY Anne Davenport  March 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM EST


Angélique Kidjo reflects on African music and using song to create human connections.

Grammy-winner Angélique Kidjo is out with a new album, “Eve,” and an autobiography, “Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music.” With a preface by Desmond Tutu and the foreword by Alicia Keys, “Spirit Rising” shows something about her reach and twined humanitarian and musical interests.

She’s touring now in the U.S. and continuing her efforts to empower African girls and others through her UNICEF ambassadorship, and through her own foundation in her native Benin. The album celebrates the range of musical partnerships she fosters: new and well-known guest musicians including Dr. John, Rostamm Btmanglij (Vampire Weekend), The Kronos Quartet and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg. In addition, remarkable singers and women’s choirs from several African villages in Benin and Kenya sing in a wide array of native Beninese languages including Fon, Yoruba, Goun and Mina.

Angélique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo

Kidjo’s accolades span 20 years and thousands of concerts around the world. TIME Magazine has called her Africa’s premier diva and London’s Daily Telegraph named her the undisputed Queen of African Music. Kidjo’s 2008 recording “Djin Djin” won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album and her last studio recording, “Oyo,” was nominated in the same category.

“The voice is the mirror of your soul, and I want my soul to touch other people’s soul(s),” Kidjo told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

They spoke before her recent performance at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, where she talked about her early passion for music: “At nine, I start singing in my brothers’ band, where my father would come and smuggle me to a club. It made me discover my city differently.” But she added, music was very much woven into everyday life too: “You don’t need to be doing a party to play music. I mean going on stage, doing a concert like I’m going to do is a western concept. Because when we were not doing (a concert), we just bring the drums out, we start singing, dancing and everybody knows the songs or they listen to it and jump in.”

Watch Jeffrey Brown’s broadcast conversation with Angélique Kidjo.

Online video shot by Quinn Bowman and Rebecca Jacobson and edited by Victoria Fleischer.