Getting to know: Angélique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo

Grammy-award winning Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo, says music spoke to her early on and her love for it evolved naturally.

Music is part of my DNA. According to family legend, my aunt – who’s a traditional singer – was singing to my mother’s pregnant belly when she was carrying me, and I was singing before I was speaking. I performed on stage for the first time when I was six and as a teenager, I was involved in many concerts.

Travelling is a main source of inspiration for me. When I started travelling all over Africa with Unicef in the early 2000s, I met many amazing people, whose stories are reflected in my songs. My last album, Eve, started with a Kenyan song that the women from the Samburu district taught me.

My favourite destination is Benin where most of my family still live, including my 88-year-old mother, who’s unstoppable. I hope I have her energy when I’m her age. She’s taught me a great deal, particularly that if you want to be a good artist, you have to be spiritually naked.

My most memorable performances have been singing for Nelson Mandela during the first 46664 concert in Cape Town, performing at New York’s Carnegie Hall 40 years after Miriam Makeba sang there with Harry Belafonte, and singing in Benin in front of 20 000 people after 13 years of exile. I felt as if I was flying.

Cooking is the second passion in my life, after music. I often spend more hours in the kitchen than in the recording studio. In my autobiography Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Design), each recipe was going to be attached to an episode in my life, but in the end, the story of my journey from Benin to the Grammys took over the book. However, there’s still a special section with some of my favourite recipes. I hope the book will show women in Africa how much they can accomplish in their lives.

The full articl appeared in the September 2015 edition of Sawubona magazine (download for free).

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