Who Is Angélique Kidjo? Everything You Need To Know About Africa’s Premier Diva

Angelique Kidjo

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist with a net worth of $5 million. The five-time Grammy winner is known for her diverse musical influences and innovative music videos.

Kidjo was born in Cotonou, Benin in July 1960 and rose to the pinnacle of world music with African-themed songs that earned her numerous awards and accolades. She was named one of The Guardian’s Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World, “The undisputed queen of African music” by The Daily Telegraph, and “Africa’s premier diva” by Time magazine. She was honored with the 2015 Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Pretty, Kidjo’s debut album, was released in 1981. She has also collaborated with artists such as Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, and Ziggy Marley. She enjoys acting as well as music. She appeared in the 2015 Nollywood film The CEO.

Kidjo’s rise to stardom

Kidjo was born into a family of performers. Her journey to becoming one of Africa’s greatest artists, however, began in 1983 in Paris, France.

Paris has long been the multicultural epicenter of modern Europe, hosting artists, intellectuals, and romantics. To be sure, Kidjo’s Africanness was forced upon her by France, for better or worse.

As she herself would later say: “I refuse for anyone to tell me who I am because I know who I am.” She was not going to be French or European but she had to be something. In Paris, she was introduced to a wide range of cultures and sounds and that afforded her the ability to experiment. That is where she also met her husband, Jean Hebrail, the French producer, composer, and bassist.

Kidjo’s first few years in Paris were spent studying and performing with various local groups. But she would soon start writing songs too as she did for the Dutch pianist Jasper van ’t Hof. The Beninoise had not gone to France as a novice in music. She already had a moderately successful album back home.

Between 1990 and 1998, Kidjo released five albums. Her sound was unique and not in a cliche kind of way; hit tracks such as Wombo Lombo, Agolo, Naima and Batonga were all produced during that period.

Kidjo performed in Fon, her native language. She also performed in Yoruba, English, and French, combining sounds from jazz, samba, salsa, soul, reggae, and hip hop. She also kept the then-emerging sound of Afrobeats and Francophone African traditions.

Kidjo’s subjects for these albums were those close to her heart. They were her truths, realities she had grown up with in Ouidah, Benin. Kidjo, for example, discussed homelessness, freedom, and the environment in Logozo, a Billboard chart-topping album. Record producers will not be thrilled if their female artists do that, whether in 1991 or 2019.

Despite this, Kidjo’s looks, or appearance, were important. Her visual appeal complemented the music, drawing heavily on the voodoo culture of Benin and other parts of West Africa. This was not a problem for her. Kidjo was confident in relaying the artistic expressions fundamental to what she knows is African for a way of life that is frequently mischaracterized even by Africans.

On this, she said, “The richness of Africa, culturally, is vast. That’s the challenge that we have to face, because most of the time, people in the Western world, their attention span is really narrow.”

Kidjo, therefore, set her own task: taking Africa to the world. For her, this was non-negotiable as an artiste.


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