CNN’s Inside Africa Joins Five-Time Grammy Winner Angelique Kidjo Backstage And Back Home During Her Tour

In a new episode of Inside Africa, CNN joins five-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo who is on tour celebrating her 40th anniversary at the top of the global music industry. She says: “Being on stage for me is just the best thing ever. It’s the best place, and the safest, and the most beautiful place that exists on earth for me.”

The Beninese star is out to change perceptions of ‘African music’ one audience at a time: “People still think that classical music has nothing to do with African music. That there is any music on this planet that has nothing to do with Africa. So, why is Africa the cradle of humanity? Where do we come from? And the way that we can dissociate ourself, for me, is a manifestation of fear. Because the narrative that I’ve been told about Africa is so negative, that no one wants to be associated with it.  So, if you want to change the narrative, let’s start with music.”

One of ten children, Angelique grew up in a musical family and sings in five different languages, often drawing from her West African roots: “I think what is really important that they gave us the freedom to choose what we want to listen to. So, I start singing along because every album that comes in, I don’t care which language is it, I don’t care if I can speak it or not, I just sing it.”

Described as ‘Africa’s Premier Diva’ by TIME magazine, the charismatic Beninese singer has championed African talent throughout her career, performing with the best emerging artists from Burna Boy to Yemi Alade.

Miriam Makeba, Africa’s original Premier Diva, is one of Angelique’s early inspirations. “[She] came in on the turntable, and then Bella Bellow from Togo come in, where I can relate. Then suddenly it’s like a flower blooming, I’m like, ooh, there’s something bubbling in me here”.

Angelique went onto perform alongside her hero who paid her the ultimate compliment during their last concert together, she says: “We were on stage, and then she stopped the music and said to the people, “Listen to me, I have something to say to you. I want to introduce you to the Queen of African music, Angelique Kidjo”.”

Forever a champion of African culture, Angelique’s music also carries a strong message of environmental activism. She says: “Why can’t we follow the mandate of the people and create a society, sustainable economy for everyone to be able to live in dignity and decent life for the next generation to inherit.”

Joseph Fowler, Head of Arts and Culture of the World Economic Forum (WEF), echoes this when speaking about Angelique performing at the opening concert in Davos this year: “We’re telling the story of the Sahara Desert and the Amazon and this is told through… the relationship between the two of these very contrasting geographical locations… We’re telling this story through music and the incredible repertoire of Angelique Kidjo.”

Angelique is a long-serving UNICEF goodwill ambassador and founder of the Batonga Foundation, which provides support and mentorships to young women and girls in Africa. “Respecting people’s dignity is the key to success. So, for me, Batonga has always been an organization that I wanted to be partnering with the girls. I want them to be the one that call the shot,” she says.

Angelique also credits becoming a mother to a daughter as added motivation for helping young girls. Her daughter, Naima Hebrail Kidjo says: “I feel like she gives everybody the freedom to be so authentically themselves, whatever discipline they’re in, but I feel like that’s the biggest impact.”

Being at home with Angelique Kidjo, just outside Paris, is no different in some ways from being on tour with her. “She comes back from tour, she’s unpacking the suitcases and she’s cooking and she’s doing this and doing that. She just is so full of life,” adds Naim.

Warming up for her next performance, Angelique will soon be back on the road again, leaving her home and loved ones to do what she does best.

“I’m grateful, thankful that I can live off my passion. That I am paid to leave my home, to make people dance, sing for 90 minutes, for them to realize and accept their own humanity, standing next to people they don’t know, but through music becoming brothers and sisters again. That, there’s nothing better than that in the world,” Angelique concludes.

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