African Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Angélique Kidjo has been referred to as ‘Africa’s premier diva’ by Time magazine and just recently made it into The Guardian’s list of the top 100 women in art, film, music and fashion. From the Republic of Benin, a west-African country roughly one-third the size of Maha-rashtra, Kidjo, 50, has been for rallying for women’s rights in Africa and campaigning to check the spread of dangerous illnesses for over a decade.
This has led to performing at several special events including Nobel Peace Prize concerts, the UN General Assembly Meeting and Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration ceremony. Kidjo’s eclectic style of music features her singing in four languages – Fon, French, Yoruba and English along with her self-created language whose words have formed song names like ‘Batonga’.
“In Benin, we have 50 languages, many kinds of instruments and different styles of music,” she says, adding, “So the main trend in Benin is mixing the old traditions with modern instruments. We use folk songs of our region to create new styles. Of course, rap music is very popular among young people too.”Kidjo is also fond of Bollywood music and even included a cover version of Mohammed Rafi’s Dil mein chhupake pyar ka… from Aan (1952).
She says, "Indian music has a lot in common with African grooves," regarding the song that features her singing to typical African beats with vocal harmonies. "When I grew up in Benin, Bollywood movies were very popular and I used to love this Hindi movie called The Magician (Aan). I went to see it 10 times and I would sing the theme song all the time. So when I decided to record an album (Oyo) with all the songs that influenced me, I had to put this one song called Dil main chhupake... in it. I used an African rhythm, and I hope my accent is correct," she adds. Kidjo loves the music of Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar and has played with Indian musicians Trilok Gurtu and Talvin Singh in the past.
Regarding upcoming projects, she mentions, “I just recorded a song for a lullaby album with Carla Bruni, Martha Wainwright and Madonna. I also sang for the next Red Hot and Rio album. I’m working simultaneously on a concert with the Luxembourg Orchestra. My life is so busy, I don’t have time to get bored,” she says.
Angélique Kidjo will perform on March 10 and 11 at Blue Frog and NCPA, Tata Theatre respectively.
Tickets for Blue Frog – Rs. 2,000.
Call: 6158 6158.
Tickets for NCPA – Rs. 400, 800 and 1,200.
Call 6622 3754/24.