Angélique Kidjo (Benin / New York)
Benin-born, now New York-based Angélique Kidjo is one of the biggest African musicians on the world stage today. She’s been called “Africa’s premier diva” (Time Magazine) and “the undisputed Queen of African Music” (Daily Telegraph). The BBC has included Kidjo in its list of the African continent’s 50 most iconic figures, The Guardian has listed her as one of its “Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World,” and Kidjo is the first woman to be listed among “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa” by Forbes magazine. Her other accolades include two Grammy Awards, the latest earlier this year for best World Music Album for Eve, an epic recording that pays tribute to Africa’s women, a 20-year discography, and thousands of concerts around the world.
Kidjo is a dynamic and charismatic performer and a stunning vocalist. NPR Music says, “The power of Kidjo’s unflappable voice, the range of her emotional expression, the stellar, genre-bending musicians who back her and the infectious, activist energy that courses through her songs all transcend any native tongue.” Her eclectic musical influences include Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel and Latin sounds. She is fluent in Fon, French, Yoruba and English – and sings in all four languages.
The 54-year-old singer is also known for her activism. She has pressed for action on climate change and for a more sustained effort to improve public health in West Africa in the wake of the Ebola crisis. As a Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF since 2002, she has traveled to many countries in Africa, working in a variety of ways to improve conditions for those living in dire poverty.
In accepting her 2015 Grammy, Kidjo said “”For me, music is a weapon of peace, and today more than ever, as artists we have a role to play in the stability of this world.”