Three-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today, a creative force with 13 albums to her name. TIME magazine has called her "Africa's premier diva," the BBC has included her in its list of Africa's 50 most iconic figures, and The Guardian listed her as one of 2011's 100 most inspiring women in the world. She is also the first woman included in Forbes' list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. Kidjo is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.
As a performer, Kidjo's striking voice, stage presence, and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across borders. She has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk, and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.
Kidjo's newest project is a reinterpretation of Talking Heads' classic 1980 album, Remain in Light, produced by Jeff Bhasker. After its premiere performance at Carnegie Hall, she will take the musical extravaganza to concert halls and festivals across the globe, including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
Her star-studded Djin Djin won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2008; Õÿö was nominated for the same award in 2011. Her 12th album, Eve, was released to critical acclaim in 2014, earning Kidjo a second Grammy Award. Her historic, orchestral album Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg won another Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2016. She has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies, including the Bruckner Orchester Linz, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Philharmonie de Paris.
Along with her own wide-ranging catalogue, Kidjo has collaborated with virtually every major artist of the era, including Bono, Peter Gabriel, John Legend, Gilberto Gil, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews, Philip Glass, Ziggy Marley, Henri Salvador, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Dr. John, Cassandra Wilson, Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, the San Francisco Symphony, and many others. In addition, her remarkable memoir, Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music, was published by HarperCollins in 2014 to universal acclaim.
A committed international activist, Kidjo has advocated on behalf of children as both a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Her own Batonga Foundation is dedicated to the empowerment of young women and girls in Africa through secondary school and higher education.
Kidjo and her four-piece band are known worldwide as a truly unique and always dynamic live act, their high-energy set recently captured in a spectacular installment of PBS's Austin City Limits. Last year, Kidjo performed Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" at the dedication ceremony of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. She returned to the National Mall in January 2017 to co-headline the historic Women's March on Washington, performing a stunning rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" for the half-million people in attendance.
Dominic James has toured and recorded with Angélique Kidjo, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Chris Botti, Pharoah Sanders, and many others. He played all the guitars and the bass on Shakira's biggest hit, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)"--the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Born in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, Yayo Serka is one of the most influential drummers of contemporary Latin American music. His unique approach to music is the result of four years of studies in Havana, Cuba, along with his 20 years as a career drummer based in New York City. Serka has performed and recorded with Lila Downs, The Chieftains, Gato Barbieri, Claudia Acuña, Susana Baca, and Mercedes Sosa, among others.
Grammy Award winner Magatte Sow was raised in Los Angeles with a strong connection to his African culture. His first performance experience occurred when he was two years old as part of his parents' West African Drum and Dance Company. He has since performed and recorded with the likes of Angélique Kidjo; Stevie Wonder; Earth, Wind, & Fire; Youssou N'Dour; John Legend; Janelle Monáe; Dianne Reeves; and Debbie Allen. Sow is a member of his father's group, Fara Toro; he also assists his father in teaching djembe and sabar at the Los Angeles Music Center. In Senegal, Sow is a member of Generation Percu and Kondiof.
Born to an American father and a French mother, Ben Zwerin grew up in Paris. In the fall of 1995, he left France to accept a scholarship at Boston's Berkelee College of Music. Zwerin performs and tours with talented and diverse artists, including Angélique Kidjo, Lila Downs, Nouvelle Vague, Claudia Acuña, and Lionel Loueke. Zwerin has also played in the Off-Broadway shows Bat Boy: The Musical and A Broadway Diva Christmas. He also produces and writes for television (All My Children, One Life to Live, and American Pickers).
Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the Ivory Coast's National Institute of Art. In 1994, he continued his jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris and then came to the US on a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music. After graduating, Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he was able to study with his most significant mentors: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard. Praised by Hancock as "a musical painter," Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. His Blue Note debut, Karibu (2008), featured guest appearances from Hancock and Shorter. Mwaliko (2010) offered a series of intimate duets with Angélique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding, and Marcus Gilmore. Heritage (2012) was co-produced by label mate Robert Glasper, and found Loueke exploring a more electric sound with Derrick Hodge on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. His latest release, GAÏA, was recorded live in the studio with bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth, produced by Don Was. In addition to albums with his collective trio Gilfema (with Biolcati and Nemeth), Loueke has appeared on recordings by Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Joe Lovano, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick Scott, and others. He continues to tour the world with his own trio as well as with Hancock, and is a member of Blue Note Record's Our Point of View with Glasper, Hodge, Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Marcus Strickland.
Keyboardist, composer, and electronic musician Jason Lindner is best known as leader of the alternative electro-hybrid trio Now Vs Now, and for his keys and synth work on David Bowie's Grammy-winning final album, Blackstar, for which producer Tony Visconti called Lindner a "godsend." Before Now Vs Now, the New York native led, composed for, and played in a large ensemble whose debut album was presented by Chick Corea, who proclaimed Lindner to be a "musical universe." He now tours extensively with Now Vs Now and Donny McCaslin, and has collaborated with many other luminaries, including Meshell Ndegeocello and Mulatu Astatke. The New York Times wrote, "Rhythm provides more than a heartbeat for Jason Lindner. It also seems to fuel his respiratory functions and digestive activity, and maybe his neurons ... What matters to him is groove, however it comes."
From Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles to Labelle and on to a stunning solo career, Nona Hendryx has always been on the cutting edge of music. Her collaborations range from Talking Heads, Material, Prince, and Peter Gabriel to Rahzel, Dead Prez's M1, and Res's producers Doc and Khaliyl. She's written music for Blue, Charles Randolph-Wright's play with music, and scored and contributed 14 new songs to the film Preaching to the Choir. Hendryx has performed at summer festivals across Europe with the Daughters of Soul (Sandra St. Victor, Indira Khan, Lisa Simone, Lalah Hathaway, and Joyce Kennedy), and taught music seminars in New York and Amsterdam. She collaborated on lyrics and vocals with Paul Haslinger (Tangerine Dream) on the Golden Globe-winning Showtime series Sleeper Cell. Hendryx has performed her show Untethered at London's Somerset House, the GE Theatre at Proctors, the opening of the Michael Werner Gallery in London, and the VW Gallery in Berlin; in the program, she wears audio clothing created by Benoît Maubrey, including an "audio tutu" that merges music and multimedia technology with the environment and art. Hendryx is passionate about everything she does--specifically the new artists she is introducing through HopeStock's UnFiltered Music Series in New York City.
Keyontia "Ki Ki" Hawkins attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where she expanded vocally from gospel, R&B, jazz, and rock, into classical music. She went on to continue her education at The Juilliard School. Hawkins began her touring career with notable artists such as Amel Larrieux, Kelis, Angélique Kidjo, Nona Hendryx, Patti LaBelle, Labelle, and Maiysha. As an established writer, Hawkins has written and performed lead and backing vocals on dance singles "You Don't Tell Me Anymore," "Get Up," "Thank You," "Keep It Movin," and "Give You What You Need" for Wakko Records. Her voice can also be heard on Raheem DeVaughn's The Love Experience, Q-Tip's single "Work it Out" and album Kamaal the Abstract, Labelle's Back to Now, Nona Hendryx's Mutatis Mutandis, and the 2009 EP release of The Ki Ki Experience LIVE.
The Antibalas Horns is among the most versatile, soulful, and idiosyncratic horn sections in show business today. Outside of their work as the melodic engine of Antibalas, the performers and their arrangements have been featured at Carnegie Hall during tributes to Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Talking Heads. Onstage and on record, they've collaborated with Angélique Kidjo, The Roots, Steven Bernstein, Medeski Martin & Wood, Davido, TV on the Radio, Mark Ronson, Jovanotti, Santigold, and scores of other artists across the musical spectrum. Outside of The Antibalas Horns, the musicians can be found currently touring with Lukas Graham, Bonobo, Valerie June, the FELA! musical, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Thirteen-year-old guitarist Brandon "Taz" Niederauer is living proof that dreams really do come true. Having played in the most legendary rooms in America with some of the most prominent musicians of our time, the young guitarist-singer-songwriter has built quite the reputation. Four years after seeing School of Rock, Niederauer was cast as guitarist Zack Mooneyham in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony-nominated Broadway adaptation of the movie. Since moving to New York City, Niederauer has performed with members of The Allman Brothers Band (Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Oteil Burbridge), as well as other notable musicians, including Buddy Guy, Stevie Nicks, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Dr. John, Gary Clark Jr., Eric Krasno, George Porter Jr., Robert Randolph, and Karl Denson. He has also played with Umphrey's McGee, Scorpians, Dumpstaphunk, The Revivalists, Galactic, and countless others. Since performing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the age of 10, Niederauer has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Good Morning America, and The View.
Kuumunity Collaborations is a collective of artists of all types. Its mission is to provide a supportive space through workshops, mentorship, and concerts for original works to be created, produced, performed, recorded, and published, while also providing resources like the bands and singers needed to make the music come to life. Working with established artists like Angélique Kidjo is a great opportunity to more widely showcase the work of this organization. For more information, visit kuumunity.org.