Iconic Women

Angelique Kidjo

By Aisha Kabiru Mohammed | May 25, 2022

Angelique Kidjo is a singer-songwriter from Ouida in the Benin Republic. She is a multiple award-winning musician known for her collaborations with internationally prominent popular musicians and innovative blending of musical styles. The genres she plays include: Afropop, Afrobeat, reggae, world music, world fusion, worldbeat, jazz, Gospel and Latin

Early Life.

Angelique was born into a family of performing artists on July 14, 1960. At age 6, she began performing with her mother who was a choreographer and theatre director. Her father was a musician and both parents' performing experiences influenced her and her siblings. When she was a teenager, Angelique sang with her brothers in their rock rhythm and blues band. She then joined 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. 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.

Career and Special performances.

While Angelique worked many jobs to pay for her tuition in Paris, she met musician and producer Jean Hebrail, with whom she has composed most of her music. They got married in 1987. She started as a backup singer in local bands. She spent her first years in Paris studying jazz. After teaming with the Dutch pianist Jasper van’t Hof, she sang with and co-wrote songs for his jazz group, Pili-Pili. After several years Kidjo left Pili-Pili and recorded Logozo (1991), which featured the American jazz musician Branford Marsalis and the African artists Manu Dibango and Ray Lema. With songs addressing issues of global concern—such as homelessness, the environment, freedom, and integration—Logozo was an international success. Kidjo increased her international appeal through her later releases, including Fifa (1995), in which she and more than 100 other musicians performed songs in English, Fon (her native language), Yoruba, and French. Angelique Kidjo has performed in many important events including the 2010 World Cup final draw, she performed at The Oslo Nobel Peace Prize concert in 1996, In 2005, she appeared at the Africa Unite Live concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a concert to celebrate the Honourable Bob Marley's 60th birthday, and was a featured speaker at the conference of African Unity held along with the concert. In March 2005, she appeared at the Africa Live concert in Dakar along with many great African stars in front of 50,000 people. In June 2005, she was part of the Live 8 concert, Eden Project hosted by Angelina Jolie in Cornwall, UK. In 2009, she performed at the Peace Ball for Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington, DC and later in the same year, at the United Nations General Assembly for the UN Day Concert, A Tribute to Peacekeeping. In 2010 she performed in Vancouver for the winter Olympic games. On June 10, 2010, she was part of the Official Kick-Off Celebration Concert of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. One of her biggest performances was at the World War I centennial celebration, On November 11, 2018, Angelique Kidjo sang Bella Bellow's song “Blewu” under the Arc De Triomphe of Paris in front of 70 Heads of State and a television audience of millions to pay tribute to the fallen African soldiers of the war.

Awards and Recognitions.

On September 15, 2021, Time Magazine included her in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2010, the BBC Focus on Africa magazine included Kidjo in its list of the African continent's 50 most iconic figures, based on reader votes. In 2020 she was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020. She has been awarded 3 Grammys and 2 Grammy nominations along with a BET award Nomination. She won the Making a Difference for Women Award from the National Council for Research on Women in the US in 2009 along with an Afropop Hall of Fame induction Celebrating Women Award from the New York Women's Foundation and Premio Tenco Prize for her entire singing career from Italy. All in the same year. On May 8, 2010, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music at the Berkeley College.