Angelique Kidjo: A Musician Who is a World Treasure

I visit the Free Library to explore all that the world has to offer in terms of Literature and Music.  I have been partial to James Patterson, Eric Jerome Dickey, Walter Moseley and David Baldacci.  Dianne McKinney-Whetstone had me enthralled with her Philadelphia based novels also.  I then visit the music section to check on the Library's vast selection of CD's.  I can range from Nina Simone to Katy Perry, from Salsa to Rhythm & Blues.  I borrowed a CD that was a collaboration between Jackie Wright and the Roots and was floored by the versatility of the musicians.  Little did I know that when I borrowed a CD entitled Djin, Djin a few years ago that I would want to explore a contemporary power house musician.

Angelique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounishou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo is a musician who was born in Benin in 1961.  Her musical range includes Afropop, Carribean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel and Latin.  Some of her musical influences include James Brown, Bella Bellow, Mariam Makeba and Nina Simone.  Many of my American readers would know about Brown and Simone.  I have listened to Marian Makeba.  I wanted to spend a few lines on the story of Bella Bellow.

Georgette Adjoari Nafiatou Bellow was born in Togo in 1945.  She was noticed for her musical talents at an early age.  She studied music at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Abidjan.  She recorded her first hit called Rockia in 1969.  In the the 1970's, many of the school children in Africa danced to this tune.  She crossed paths with Angelique while performing for Senegal's 5th anniversary of independence in 1965.  She left an indelible mark on Miss Kidjo.  She died in a car accident in 1973 before her fame could take her on a higher path.

Miss Kidjo just released a new CD entitled EVE this year.  It is dedicated to the women in Africa.  Africa is still a country where arranged marriages are common.  Many women are still uneducated and AIDS has lowered the life expectancy of people in countries like the Central African Republic and South Africa.  Her life story doesn't mention a marriage or children.  Her music and her mission to improve life for her fellow citizens is a testament to her living.

My desire to learn more about Angelique grew when I borrowed her CD entitled Oyo.  It is a living history lesson.  Her picture is on the front with mesmerizing brown eyes.  She actually sings in a Cold Sweat in English.  I found out that she is fluent in French, Fon, Yoruba and English.  Fon is a part of the Gbe language that is spoken mainly in Benin.  Many of the people who speak this language live in villages in mud houses with iron roofs.  Our musical connection could also be based on the fact that the villages of Dahomey and Odah, where Fon is spoken, were major commercial centers for the Slave trade.  There is also a song on this CD entitled 'Lakutshona Llanga.  It is a lullaby made famous by Mariam Makeba and symbolizes her dreams of using music to become famous.

The biography of Angelique Kidjo on Wikipedia is something to behold.  The BBC has included Kidjo in its list of the African continents 50 most iconic figures.  The Guardian, a British newspaper, has listed her as one of the top 100 most inspiring women in the world.  This list does not just include musicians.  I am impressed by her music and her influence.  Due to political turmoil in her own country, she was forced to relocate to France in 1983.  She was twenty-two and forced to make decisions that led to her experiencing the African Diaspora at a much later stage than many other expatriates.  She has collaborated with Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, Dianne Reeves, Bono and Ziggy Marley.  I will actually purchase one of her CD's and continue on my present journey to master some level of French.  Listen to one of her CD's and expand your musical world.

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