REGARDED AS AFRICA’S VOICE, ANGELIQUE KIDJO’S LATEST ALBUM CERTAINLY REFLECTS THIS IN ALL ITS GRIEF AND GLORY. HOWEVER, IT ALSO TORE OUT HER HEART, AS RIP NICHOLSON LEARNS.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO interviewed @ 11.40 AEST – Friday 13th February, 2015
For Street Press Australia & Rip2Shredz Press
Words by RIP NICHOLSON
It was a trip that I took with a UN delegation to the Chad refugee camps for the Darfurian people in 2011,” Angelique Kidjo explains, thinking back to what motivated her most recent album.
“And we met twenty-three women who told us about what they went through before they got to the camp. It was so painful, I came back affected so profoundly that I lost the ability to sleep. The inspiration for Eve was from these women.
“Before we left, even though they were crying, tears in their eyes, one woman had said to me, ‘Whatever you do when you leave here, whatever power you have, make sure we get home with security and safety to take care of our children and please, don’t let anyone victimise us.’
“You know sometimes I go to places with UNICEF or other organisations and I come back completely in pain – emotionally drained.”
Already this year the singer, songwriter and activist has won the Crystal Award for her humanitarian contribution and her second Grammy for Best World Album with her 11th studio album, Eve, dedicated to the women of Africa. “For me, music is a weapon of peace and today more than ever, as artists we have a role to play in the stability of this world,” Kidjo said during her recent Grammy acceptance speech.
Eve, through the pride in her vocals and majesty of its accompanying orchestra, has certainly been used for a just cause. Armed with a six-track recorder, Kidjo travelled to her native Benin and captured the gift of song in these women’s choir groups and reflected their survival spirit.
“Kenya was the starting point of the whole album, actually. And at that point I was not even thinking about recording the women for the album. I was there on a mission as the UN Goodwill Ambassador to deal with the problem of acute malnutrition. After being on an emotional rollercoaster from this village, I came to the second village where the women here had started singing and, oh my God, I just followed the voice. My husband had seen me transforming from that emotional wreck that I was and just seeing the power of music lifting me up. How we got there was through the women of Kenya who gave me their courage.”
Eve is also an homage to her mother, Yvonne, whose voice is featured on the African vintage record, Bana. “For me, my mum taught me how to sing, she put me on stage. She was always there with ten children and only my father’s pay cheque. I don’t know how she did it, I only have one child and she is enough,” Kidjo laughs. “And as a woman, my mum has been lucky to have married my father who never told her, ‘because you are my wife, you cannot do this, do that.’ Whatever she decided to do, my father was always supportive. So, I grew up in that background. For me, I have to give back. There’s no way I can do otherwise.”