Our masters in the Epicurean tradition are adamant that we only get one life. Too often, we unfortunately wait for celebrities, artists, mentors, and people we admire to die before we find the words to show how much we celebrate and appreciate them. I will not wait for this woman to die without offering my praise to her beautiful musical legacy. I am posting this today in celebration of the 56th birthday of a woman whose joyful, authentic musical legacy I’ve enjoyed for decades. Angélique Kidjo is fortunately still with us, alive and well, and she’s my favorite African artist of all time. I have yet to come across an African musician with the talent, authenticity, and the vocal range that this woman has. I also enjoy that her lyrics have a conscience, and that she’s not afraid to reach across the pond and celebrate the shared musical legacy that her continent has with Latin America, the US, and the Caribbean.
My initiation into Angélique Kidjo’s ecstasies, highs, and mysteries came in the form of enjoying the song that made her famous, Batonga. Throughout her career she has recorded many albums, including one CD exploring the influence that African music has had in United States’ music (Oremi), another one (Black Ivory Soul) on the influence it has had in Brasilian music, and another one (Oyaya) exploring the influence Africa had in Caribbean music.
Kidjo hails from Benin, and in addition to being a truly cosmopolitan artist, she has also been involved in numerous philanthropic projects in and outside of Africa. Some of my favorite songs by her are Senie, Adouma, Mutoto Kwanza, Bahia, Tumba and Iemandja.