Africa is richly blessed with personalities who have become forces to recon with globally. From scientists to business moguls as well as celebrities, these individuals enjoy a wide array of recognition and accolades. While Africa is still a developing continent, Africans have continuously surpassed the limitations imposed on them by economic and societal factors. Through sheer grit and determination to excel with little or no governmental assistance, Africans have continuously showcased their skills and talents to all within and outside the continent. To Will Durant, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” When it comes to global excellence and recognition, from the vast pool of notable icons, one name stands out always. Known for her stance against governmental impropriety and failures, her voice has become a solace wherein other Africans draw strength. Born in the small coastal town of Quidah in Benin Republic to a musician father, Franck Kidjo, and a theatre director/choreographer mother, Yvonne, the name Angelique Kidjo has become a household name.  

Angelique Kidjo was born on July 14, 1960. Right from age six, she was introduced to performing art by her mom who was a choreographer. Although her parents had nine children, Kidjo (as she is fondly called) shone brightly. While honing her performing skills through her mom’s theatre, she also joined her brother’s musical group. Influenced greatly by her country’s traditional music, Kidjo also keenly listened to Juju sound from Nigeria, a neighbouring country.  In the late 1970s, Angelique Kidjo formed her own musical band and recorded an album. In 1980, Kidjo left Benin because of the restrictions imposed on her by the new regime which took control of Benin’s government. Upon leaving Benin, she relocated to Paris where she aimed at studying law so she could defend human rights. Realising she wasn’t cut out for political activism, she opted to speak against the government through her music instead. She knew her music would traverse boundaries and also touch the lives of millions. 

In 1983, she met and married Jean Hebrail, a French producer, composer, and bassist. In 1991, she released another album titled Logozo, which featured Branford Marshal, an American Jazz musician, Ray Lema and Manu Dibango who were also Africans. The presence of other African musicians in Paris, as well as musicians from the Caribbeans, helped in shaping Kidjo’s sound. Through her mother, Kidjo got to listen to a lot of Miriam Makeba’s music and that shaped her musical trajectory. Her love for Miriam Makeba influenced her to include a cover of Makeba’s Malaika in her album. In 1995, she released “Fifa” which included the musical geniuses of over 100 musicians who performed in English, Fon, French, and French. The album also included the hit single “Wombo lombo” which has broken various records. Since her early outburst into the musical stage, Angelique Kidjo has released fifteen studio albums which are of various musical genres. Fluent in over eight languages, Kidjo’s music is usually rich in these diverse languages. Indeed, Angelique Kidjo is a musical luminary. 

Winning the coveted Grammy award five times isn’t an easy feat for an African. The uniqueness of her music has earned lots of accolades and admonition. Asides from her exploits in music, Kidjo is also an advocate for Education and health care for Women and children. She was named one of UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador in 2002. In 2011, she was named one of the top 100 most inspiring women in the world by the Guardia. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2016, she received the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award. She was also named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2021 by Times Magazine who also called her “Africa’s premier diva”. In 2023, she received the Vilcek Prize in Music.

If you like this article, please share with others
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments