KIDJO: I want others to have what I had

Saturday May 4 2019

Angelique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo (left) with one of the girls whose education she supports. PHOTO | COURTESY 

BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
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Angélique Kidjo stole the show at the Isaiah Katumwa concert held at the Kampala Serena Hotel Victoria Hall to mark the International Jazz Day on Tuesday with her powerful vocal and energetic dancing.

The concert was delayed by one hour and by the time Katumwa took to the stage at 8:42pm with his five-man band, the crowd was impatient.

Katumwa paid tribute to Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi and Moses Nakintije Ssekibogo aka Mowzey Radio and played a rendition of Mtukudzi’s hit song Todii.

Kidjo took to the stage in a green floral printed fabric outfit with a matching head gear at the Victoria Hall at exactly 11:12pm with her five-man band, and took the audience through a marathon performance lasting one-and-half hours.

The repertoire included both her old and new music, much to the delight of the audience.

Kidjo, 58, was so charged that when she removed her head gear in the middle of her second song showing her signature short hair style, it was a signal to the audience to expect a memorable performance.

Angélique Kidjo performing on April 30, 2019 at

Angélique Kidjo performing on April 30, 2019 at the Kampala Serena Hotel. PHOTO | COURTESY

She then asked the fans to join in the fun. “Did you bring your dancing shoes? I want you to dance along as we do in Africa,” she urged them. The fans did not disappoint her.

She performed Katongo, Wombo Lombo and the crowd’s favourite Agolo. But it was when she played her version of the popular Kenyan song Malaika, that she received a huge ovation.

Accompanied by her host, Katumwa, on the sax, Kidjo paid tribute to Miriam Makeba by playing a rendition of late diva’s 1960 song Lakutshon Ilanga and Pata Pata.

She also paid tribute to the American-Cuban singer and queen of salsa music Celia Cruz.

Kidjo spoke to Bamuturaki Musinguzi about her career, family and charity work.

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You have been in music now for almost three decades. What keeps you motivated?

My father used to tell me that I was singing before I could talk. I started performing on stage at the age of six and so the stage is like a home for me.

I feel so good singing in front of people and I feed off the audience's energy.

How would you describe the type of music you play?

I make all genres of music but the common thread is the African influence in my music.

I want people to be aware of the beauty and depth of African music. That is my life purpose.

You have performed with many musicians. Who stands out for you?

It is hard to choose but I was lucky to collaborate with many great artistes from all genres, from Youssou N’Dour, to Asa, Salif Keita, Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel and Alicia Keys.

What is the role of a musician today?

Famous musicians have influence so they have a responsibility to use that to speak for the people who cannot speak for themselves.

Musicians should also use their talent to unite people by opening the minds of their audiences to new cultures and trends.

An artiste who promotes hate is a contradiction and I consider such a person dangerous.

Do you think Africa is producing enough female musicians to make a positive influence on the music industry on the continent?

I have noticed there are many young female artistes like Asa, Doube Gnaoré, Yemi Alade and Fatoumata Diawara. So I feel confident they are part of a movement that will change the face of the industry.

How have you balanced your family life and your career?

My career was already a family affair because I always worked with my husband who is a musician and a composer.

So when our daughter was born we carefully organised the planning to spend time with her. When she was younger she would accompany us on our tours with a babysitter. Then when it was time for her to go to school, my husband stayed home focusing on composing and producing instead of touring.

Although digital music streaming services have the advantage of taking your music to the world instantly, it is also prone to piracy. What are your thoughts?

The music model has changed and we have to adapt. At least now there are legal streaming platforms and it is a good thing for artistes, but they should compensate the artistes better. We’re working on it.

Who are the people that have influenced you the most in your music career?

My mother was my first mentor. She taught me how to sing and also gave me the following advice: To be a great performer, you have to be naked spiritually.

It took me a long time to understand it, but I think she was right. Then the Togolese singer Bella Bellow had a great influence on me. But so did Miriam Makeba and Celia Cruz, James Brown and Otis Redding.

You live in France. How often do you go back to Benin?

My mother and some of my siblings live in Benin so I go there quite often. It is important for me because this is where my inspiration comes from.

What would have been if you were not into music?

I wanted to be a human-rights lawyer but when I started to study law in France I realised that the law doesn’t always serve justice.

Why are you so passionate about girls’ education in Africa?

I had the chance to get a great education and it helped me in my life and career. My dream is that every young girl in Africa would have the same access to education. I am convinced it will change the face of the continent.

What are the challenges hindering girls’ education in Africa?

When girls enter adolescence, there is social pressure on them to get married and start families. But secondary education is key to the development of young people and helps them understand health messages and also be part of the political landscape.

Fathers have to understand that an educated girl will have a better life and that society will change for the better.

What does charity mean to you?

I have been given so much culturally and as a human being and I wish to give back, and give another person the same opportunities I had growing up in Benin.


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