Angélique Kidjo was born on 14th July 1960 in Cotonou, Benin. Her father is Fon from Ouidah, postmaster and her mother, Yorouba, has two passions: business and theater. The couple got 10 children. She is the seventh of the tribe.
At the age of six years old, she joined the theatrical company of her mother. She got known in Benin with her adaptation of the song by Miriam Makeba, Les Trois Z for the national radio station. She so quickly brought out her first album, “Pretty” with the help of her brother and the Cameroonian producer, Ekambi Brilliant. The success of this album allowed her to become quickly famous in West Africa.
In 1983, she settled down in Paris where her daughter was born in 1993. She met there her husband, Jean Hebrail, musician and composer with whom she wrote the major part of her music. At first, chorus-singer for African groups of Paris, she became in 1985 singer of the African Jazz group, Pili Pili set up by the Dutch pianist, Jasper van ‘t Hof. She collaborated in three albums by Pili Pili: Jakko (1987), Be In Two Minds (1988, produced by Marlon Klein) and Hôtel Babo (1990).
But she also tried her chance in solo. She brought out her second album, Parakou for the label of Jazz Open.
The continuation of her career went so fast: she was spotted in Paris by Chris Blackwell, the Jamaican founder of Island Records, the record company for Bob Marley and U2. In 1991, she signed for the Mango label. She recorded four albums at Island, until Chris Blackwell’s departure. In 1998, she crossed the Atlantic Ocean and in 2000, she signed a contract in New York with the Columbia Records label for which she recorded two albums.
She is also a very committed singer: in November 2003, Angélique Kidjo sang in Cape Town, South Africa, with Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour in the big concert for Nelson Mandela foundation, 46664. In May 2004 she participated in the concert “We Are The Future” produced by Quincy Jones in Rome in front of 400 000 persons. The show took place at the Maxime circus with the cooperation of Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli, Herbie Hancock, Angelina Jolie and other international stars.
In March 2005, she sang in front of 50 000 persons during the concert, Africa Live of Dakar organized by Youssou N’Dour for the fight against malaria with the cooperation of a great number of African stars. In June 2005, she participated in the concert, Live 8 presented by Angelina Jolie and Peter Gabriel in Cornwall, the United Kingdom. In 2007, she covered the song Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon with her daughter for the compilation Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
She also presented for Live Earth and participated in the song, SING for the fight against the HIV transmission from the mother to the newborn child in Africa.
In 2008, she supported Barack Obama and she participated on 20th January 2009 in the African Diaspora Inaugural Ball, one of the balls organized in Washington during the presidential investiture.
She participated on 10th June 2010 in the concert for the launching of the Football World Cup in South Africa beside Shakira, Alicia Keys and Black Eyed Peas.
Angélique Kidjo is everywhere!
She sings, makes shows but also very actively undertakes on the field: she founded the Batonga association that she created to support the education of girls on the continent. She has also been goodwill ambassadress for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) since 2002. She is also committed for the fair business.
She fluently speaks Fon, French, Yoruba and English. She sings in her four languages.
Benin is proud of her and for good reasons!…
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Original text by: Roger ADZAFO