She’s bigger than Madonna in her motherland and a national heroine in her adopted home, France. She's also been described as the funkiest diva in all of Africa.
|Angelique Kidjo |
In the UK, Angelique Kidjo may not be a household name like her idol Aretha Franklin but eight albums into her career she enjoys considerable success around the world.
And in a small way the BBC World Service may be able to take some of the credit.
Listeners to the World Service are bound to know her most famous song, "Agolo", which has been the theme tune to the series Everywoman.
The listeners' interest in the music has never declined. "Never a week goes by without a multitude of e-mails and letters asking what the music is and how to get hold of it," says producer Kristina Glausius.
Angelique originally catapulted to prominence with her 1994 album "Aye", a set partly produced by Soul II Soul’s Will Mowat, which fused the rhythms of her native Benin with a sharp appreciation of American soul and funk, reggae, samba, salsa, gospel, jazz, Zairean rumba, zouk and makossa.
Subsequent albums have found her willing to introduce the traditional rhythms of her homeland or adding extra afro-fused Brazilian flair, while her most recent album, 2004’s "Oyaya!", easily absorbed various Caribbean styles, including salsa, calypso, zouk and ska.
Over the years, Angelique has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and a MOBO and has been hailed for her “growls and swoops that link African tradition to American soul music” by The New York Times.
Her infectious personality, sleek physique and shaven head means that she cuts the most distinctive of figures. Her most recent and high profile appearance was as a performer for Live8.
Earlier this year she also appeared on the BBC 2 Jools Holland show with a breath-taking live a cappella set, proving that – as well as being a competent afro-pop star – Angelique possesses a soulful-gospel voice that is as pure, raw and heart-breaking as original spiritual gospel was ever meant to be – sung direct from the heart from the motherland.
Angélique Kidjo speaks to Roots @ BBC Radio Newcastle
Journalist Verron Munda (guest reporter) talks to Angelique Kidjo on the eve of her headlining performance at the Sage Gateshead, as part of L'Afrique a Newcastle 2006.
What inspired you to travel from New York to play L’Afrique à Newcastle 2006?
|Angelique Kidjo |
"Initially I am always very excited at the opportunity to visit a new place. The world is large and small at the same time, and there is always somewhere new to discover. I’m also excited to belong to a festival which celebrates all the music of the world, particularly music of Africa. Playing L’Afrique a Newcastle is an honour because it enables me to perform work I’ve sung over the years. People will hear that my music does not have a colour, does not have a barrier, of border… and that by music we speak the same language, and that we are one. Taking part in L’Afrique à Newcastle will help me to bring this message to more people."
Your visit is well timed. Newcastle has a relatively new black African community. You are welcomed as an African woman and international performer. Your visit will bring a sense of pride to the black African community, where there has, at times, been a sense of xenophobia.
"I believe that any feeling of xenophobia and fear comes from ignorance. Often people think that when you are not like them, you are different and therefore you are a threat. It is not true. I think that the problem of xenophobia today is coming from the world economic crisis. Some people, for example, think that as foreigners we are going to take their work, we will take the bread from the mouth. It is not true. It is not like that. This fear has become a political tool to create divisions so that there are no meetings between the various communities.
"When we realise that we are not so different from each other, because we have all the same concerns; we come all from a father and a mother, all the children of this planet are born in the same way. Wherever I go I do not take a stand as a person of colour, I take a stand as a human being; it is as an artist that I speak to everyone. The colour of a human-being is not important for me. They are acts and the words that enable me to judge if a person deserves my consideration or my friendship. Considerations of colour are not important. Don’t fear taking steps on what we can achieve together as human being on this planet."