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Singer Angelique Kidjo
7.05.02
Arts and Culture:
Angelique Kidjo on Afrika
Angelique Kidjo is a Benin-born, Paris and Brooklyn-based performer. In her hometown of Ouidah she grew up surrounded by people of African, Brazilian and Portuguese extraction — an experience that has led her to meld styles and languages in her music.

Kidjo sings as easily in French as she does in English, not to mention her native West African language of Fon. But, the singular voice of Angelique Kidjo is recognized all over the world for its effortless beauty. Dave Matthews has said that, "If God had a voice, it would sound like Angelique."

Her seventh solo album has just been released. It's called BLACK IVORY SOUL. And it explores the people and culture of the Brazilian state of Bahia. It's the second in a planned trilogy about the African diaspora. She spoke with NPR correspondent Scott Simon about her music and her native land.

  • To watch a performance of Angelique Kidjo's song "Afrika," click on the icons below.


  • Angelique Kidjo


    Angelique Kidjo

    Excerpts from Scott Simon's conversation with Angelique Kidjo

    SCOTT SIMON: Are you trying to accomplish some of the same things with your music as you envisioned accomplishing if you become a human rights lawyer?

    ANGELIQUE KIDJO: Yeah. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get my culture to be known by the whole world because in my culture, I learn to be the person I am. And I learn to accept every differences. The music, the traditional music in my country, teaches me tolerance, accepting other people difference.

    When you come from a different country and you come with an instrument they are playing, they say, "Come and sit and play with us." It's not a matter of your color. It's not a matter of your language. It's a matter of how your spirit, your soul can join their soul. And you can get together and play music.

    And what I'm trying also to achieve with music is to try to build up a gap, to build a bridge. And — and to get that gap closed because it's — racism take its root in fear and ignorance. And as much as we are advanced in technology, less we move on human being relationship.

    We don't talk to each other. We don't interact that much with each other. What I'm trying to do in my music is to bring people to realize that, "Okay, this is the beginning of a step for us to go together, to start talking to each other."

    SCOTT SIMON: When we open the newspapers in the United States and we see Africa in the headline, it almost always — at least it seems to me — crisis, urgency, emergency, words like that. You can count on being in the same headline. Is there something in your music that reveals another part of Africa you'd like people to know about, too?

    ANGELIQUE KIDJO: Yes. The song "Afrika,"... I take it to another level. So, what I'm saying in that song is that if we African people, we don't think the best for ourselves, for our continent, nobody else will do. It's easy to be sitting down and saying, "Africa is in a bad shape." But, we have to refuse that card. We have to refuse that attitude because it's in our hand to make it better...

    That is not a matter of a lot of money. It's a matter of human being to human being. Get people to know each other. Get there with your skill and be at their level. Don't come in there saying, "I'm superior to you because I have more money." It's not about that. When you go to Africa, you face yourself. There's nowhere to run to. Who you are just come out there. That's how strong spiritually that place is.

    And every day in Africa, people wake up at 6:00 in the morning and work hard and went to bed at 8:00 with a bowl of rice as a result at the end of the day. But, that doesn't keep them away from hoping. That doesn't take away the joy and the happiness they have.

    You come to that house that day, they will share that bowl of rice with you. That's what Africa is. That's what keep me going because I know that my people — at least they have the opportunity of make it good for themselves. That opportunity has never been given to any country in Africa since what they call independence happened.

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