A Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, UN-appointed human rights activist and, more recently, author and actor, Angélique Kidjo is an unstoppable presence on the world stage.
She’s equally unstoppable on the performance stage, as she will demonstrate on Tuesday, April 26, at 7 pm, when she and her band return to the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium for the third time in 15 years.
Known for her full, clear, flexible voice, great dance moves and ability to get whole concert halls dancing in the aisles and onto the stage with her, the Benin-born Kidjo has been called “Africa’s premier diva” (TIME) and “the undisputed queen of African music” (London Telegraph). She has recorded 15 albums over her 35-year career, swinging effortlessly between Afropop, jazz, gospel, pop, rock, Caribbean and Latin styles, and singing in French, English and the Beninese languages of Yoruba and Fon. She recently won her third Grammy Award for her most recent album, Sings (429 Records), for Best World Music Album.
Writes Billboard magazine, “With a canyon-filling voice, Kidjo celebrates the power of African womanhood on her 13th album, blending choirs from Kenya and her native Benin and melodies from throughout Western Africa.” Says NPR,
“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.”
Born Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo to artistic, politically progressive parents, she began her career in her home country but, after the advent of politically and culturally repressive Communist rule in the 1980s, emigrated to Paris and later to New York City, where she now lives. Artists she has recorded with include Branford Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Gilberto Gil, Dave Matthews, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Ziggy Marley, Dianne Reeves, Bono, John Legend and Dr. John. Her 2014 album, EVE, featured New York’s finest jazz session players, including guitarist Lionel Loueke, drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Christian McBride. She followed this in 2015 with Angelique Kidjo SINGS, in which she is backed by the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. She has been nominated for four Grammy awards and has won two, most recently for EVE, which also debuted atop the Billboard World Music chart and was rated #1 in the Top 12 of World Music albums for 2014 by Radio France Internationale.
From early in her career, Kidjo leveraged her popular success to give a voice to progressive, humanitarian causes, particularly for the rights of girls and women in Africa and, more recently, combating climate change. A UN Goodwill Ambassador since 2002, she also cofounded the Batonga Foundation, which increases educational opportunities for African women and girls, and has worked on countless other campaigns for Africa, including efforts to provide tetanus vaccinations and safe drinking water, promote peace in Darfur and Congo, fight AIDS/HIV infection, and supporting global goals for sustainability. She has performed at numerous Nobel Peace Prize celebratory concerts, at the Peace Ball for Barack Obama’s first inauguration, on the opening day of the 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Change summit, and—before millions across the world—in the Official Kick-Off Celebration Concert of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Kidjo is on the BBC’s list of the African continent’s 50 most iconic figures, The Guardian’s “Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World” and Forbes magazine’s “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa.” She is listed among the “2014 Most Influential Africans” by New African magazine and Jeune Afrique. Forbes Afrique put Angelique on the cover of their “100 most influential women” issue in 2015. In 2014, she published a memoir, Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music, and also is an occasional contributor to The New York Times. In 2015, she added “actor” to her resume, playing a starring role in a popular African feature, The CEO.