Angelique Kidjo is one of the greatest forces in African music, a creative energy with 11
international albums to her name. In 2010, she shared the stage with Alicia Keys, John
Legend, and Shakira for the FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kidjo's most recent release, 2010's Õÿö- featuring John Legend, Bono, and Dianne
Reeves-is a measure of her maturity. This deeply introspective album reflects on the events
that have brought Kidjo to this point in her life.
Born in the West African state of Benin, Kidjo is a tireless campaigner for women's health
and education in Africa, a UNICEF Peace Ambassador, and a prolific songwriter. "When your
history is not written, you count on storytellers and traditional singers in Africa to tell
you who you are, what your family's about, and what is going on in your society. This is
what I do with my music, because I am a witness of my time."
Between 1972 and 1989, Benin was run as a Marxist state under Mathieu Kérékou, who took
over in a military coup d'état. When Kidjo was forced into exile in order to avoid
imprisonment, she looked to her friend and mentor Miriam Makeba as a constant source of
guidance. Makeba's campaign against apartheid, which cost Makeba her South African
citizenship and resulted in 30 years of exile, is reflected strongly in her music. "Miriam
Makeba was the African role model that I needed. She left Africa and went to America; she
was really the pan-African artist and I needed somebody like that."
Childhood musical influences-including Makeba, James Brown, and Carlos Santana-are highly
present in Kidjo's new album. "Without music, I don't think I would have had the
adolescence and the childhood that I had," she says, recalling that she was just six when
she first appeared on stage.
Kidjo's The Sound of the Drum performance features new versions of her best-loved
songs accompanied by instruments born out of the African legacy. The program bridges the
evolution of African drums and chants with various musical traditions throughout the
Americas, from Jimi Hendrix to Celia Cruz, James Brown to Gilberto Gil.