By Caitlin Hogg
Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, Angelique Kidjo has been listed as one of ‘The Most..’ women at least four times; Most Iconic Figures, Most Inspiring Women in the World, the first woman on the 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa, and last month was appointed ‘African of the Year’ by Togolese magazine, Africa Top Success, being selected above names like Lupita Nyong’o.
Now fifty-four years old, Kidjo began her career at the robust age of six, performing with her mothers’ theatre group in Cotonou, Benin and is fluent in Fon, French, Yoruba and English. Kidjo has recorded music in every one of those languages, and even created her own dialect.
In the Eighties, Kidjo studied music in a reputable jazz school in Paris where she met and married musician and producer Jean Hebrail. She became one of the most popular live performers in Paris. In 1991 she was picked up by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and signed immediately, and went on to be signed to Columbia Records in 2000. Bill Clinton said the following on her album titled Memoir: Spirit Rising, My Life, My Music; “The only thing bigger than Angélique Kidjo’s voice is her heart. In this evocative memoir, Kidjo chronicles an inspiring life of music and activism, and raises a passionate call for freedom, dignity, and the rights of people everywhere.”
Kidjo has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. With UNICEF, she has travelled to many countries in Africa. She also co-founded The Batonga Foundation, which offers girls further education through scholarships and mentorship programmes in order to drive change in Africa. Last year, Angelique was one of the endorsees of the People’s Climate March, as well as collaborating with Band Aid 30, the incarnation of the 80’s charity supergroup.
It is for these reasons, and many, many more, that Angelique is a worthy recipient of a 2015 Crystal Award.