Last night Angélique Kidjo visited Bærum Kulturhus just outside of Oslo and gave us one and a half hour of her special African magic. With her excellent band of four musicians, she spellbound a sold out venue. So far the concert is high up on my best of list for 2016.
Angélique Kidjo comes from Benin in West Africa and started performing with her mother at the age of six. In her teens she sang in a school band, and later she had success with her album Pretty, which allowed her to perform all over West Africa. In 1983 she moved to Paris,due to political conflicts in her home country.
During the 80’s she studied music and was backup singer in different bands before she got to front a band – Jasper van’t Hof’s Pili Pili – that made three records. Her international chance came in 1989 when Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records discovered her and she recorded three albums for Island during the 90’s. After this she signed with Columbia for two albums, after which she has recorded for different independent labels.
Angelique Kidjo has collaborated with a lot of different artists, jazz, contemporary and rock and pop artists alike: Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Bono, Peter Gabriel, The Kronos Quartet Philip Glass, Josh Groan, Ziggy Marley and Cassandra Wilson.
Parallel to her music career Angelique Kidjo is also working on heightening awareness for women and girls in Africa, how education can help them and also the whole community. She has been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 2002, she is campaigning for Africa for woman’s rights, for Oxfam and numerous other causes. She is also the vice president of CISAC, the international organization for composers and lyricists, and has received Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College and Middleburg College. She has also received a number of prizes.
The concert last night was sold out, and the 500 plus crowd were sitting politely waiting for The Queen of African Music to start. Already after a couple of songs, she got everyone to stand up and sing a long, an exercise she repeated during the concert. The songs were mainly from her latest album, Eve, plus her tribute to Miriam Makeba, Pata Pata.
Between the songs, Kidjo talked about her work for women’s rights, for the education of the girls of Africa, and she talked about her own upbringing and her own mother. On the second song of the evening, Bana, she sang duet with her mother’s voice, and it was almost magical. On the last song before the encore, Tumba from the album Black Ivory Soul, she invited the audience to come up on stage, where she and her percussionist danced with them A great sight, and a great concert.
On the tour, Angélique is accompanied by some of the best musicians I have heard in a long time. Dominic James on guitar, Benjamin Zwerin on bass, Magatte Sow from Senegal on percussion and the excellent drummer, Edgardo Serka.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.