Mother Nature: Songs for New York and the World Beyond
with Special Guests
Event DurationThe concert will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
In the last three decades, Angélique Kidjo has cemented her status as one of the most singular and extraordinary voices in international music, inspiring countless artists with her ingenuity, eclecticism, and seemingly boundless creative spirit. On her new album Mother Nature, the four-time Grammy Award–winning luminary joins forces with many of her musical progeny, including some of the most captivating young creators of West African music, Afrobeat, Afro-pop, dancehall, hip-hop, and alt-R&B. The result is a truly visionary body of work, rooted in a deep understanding of musical tradition, yet endlessly forward-thinking and inventive.
The follow-up to 2019’s Celia (her Grammy-winning, critically lauded tribute to Celia Cruz), Mother Nature fulfills a promise Kidjo first made upon accepting the award for Best Global Music Album at the 2016 Grammys: “The new generation of artists coming from Africa are going to take you by storm, and the time has come.” As Kidjo points out, the album was sparked from a newly heightened awareness of her own musical legacy. “For many years, I was mostly focused on creating music that makes me happy and that’s true to who I am. But over time, I started to realize the impact that my songs have had on younger generations,” says Kidjo, who hails from the West African country of Benin.
“This album came from thinking about how we can build from that and start pushing things forward together,” she continues. To that end, Mother Nature confronts such pressing issues as racial inequity and the climate crisis, once again proving the longtime activist’s rare power to transform complex subject matter into music that’s radiantly joyful. “I want this record to inspire people to think about their connection to Mother Nature, and how dear this Earth is to us. Without nature, we don’t exist. And even though nature is under attack from our industries, she’s still always so generous.”
Now based in New York City, Kidjo has garnered an abundance of accolades through the years, including being anointed “Africa’s premier diva” by TIME magazine and “the undisputed queen of African music” by The Telegraph (London), as well as landing on The Guardian’s list of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. With her most recent work, including 2018’s Remain in Light (her highly acclaimed track-by-track reimagining of Talking Heads’ landmark 1980 album), Kidjo has collaborated with the likes of Philip Glass, Alicia Keys, Bono, and Carlos Santana, and performed with a host of international orchestras and symphonies, in addition to authoring a 2014 memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music. She’s also traveled the world, advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and co-founded the Batonga Foundation to support the education of young girls in Africa.
For Kidjo, the making of Mother Nature provided a much-needed lifeline in the midst of the pandemic. “The togetherness, the sisterhood, the humanity I felt from collaborating [with other artists] gave me so much strength,” she says. “Somehow the fact that we weren’t in the same room brought even more urgency to the performance, and reminded us that—if we want to get back to some normalcy—we need everyone to sing and dance.” And in sharing the album with the world, Kidjo hopes her songs inspire the kind of togetherness that ultimately leads to transcendent change. “This album is a love letter to Mother Earth and all the values we hold dear: truth, trust, love, connection,” she continues. “If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we are all a part of the same ecosystem—this planet is all we have. For our own survival, we need to recognize the humanity that we all share and learn how to live together. There’s just no other way.”
Grammy-, Tony-, and Emmy-nominated singer, songwriter, and actor Josh Groban has entertained fans around the globe with his multi-platinum albums (more than 35 million sold worldwide) and electrifying live performances. He has appeared in multiple films and TV shows, and starred on Broadway in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, which Time Out New York called, “one of the best musicals of the decade.” Last year, Groban released his album Harmony and performed a series of intimate concerts live-streamed to international audiences.
Groban maintains his position as the consummate American showman in 2021 and beyond. He remains an active arts education philanthropist and advocate, and his Find Your Light Foundation helps enrich the lives of young people through arts, education, and cultural awareness.
Grammy Award–nominated singer-songwriter, activist, and actress Andra Day has been bearing her heart on the world’s stage for years. She was initially known for her 2016 behemoth “Rise Up,” which amassed 1 billion streams and triple-platinum certification. In addition to performing for the Obamas, she has shared the stage with everyone from Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys to Nick Jonas.
With her feature-acting debut in the Lee Daniels–directed biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday (in which she starred as Holiday herself), Day has been able to share even more of herself with audiences. Her affecting, acclaimed performance earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the Oscars and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama. Her winning renditions of Holiday’s songs and heartwarming originals on the soundtrack won praise from critics and fans alike, including recognition for the original song “Tigress & Tweed” at both the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards.
In the wake of the film, Day hasn’t slowed down, launching a TV takeover that saw her making appearances on The View, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, among others. Last year, she worked with GiveDirectly to release “Make Your Troubles Go Away” to raise money to fight COVID-19 and also lent her voice to support the Biden-Harris presidential campaign. Her upcoming studio album and warm-hearted new single “Phone Dies” continues her emotional generosity, spreading tenderness and joy to a world that needs it.
Cyndi Lauper is a groundbreaking Grammy-, Emmy-, and Tony-winning songwriter and performing artist with global record sales in excess of 50 million. Her iconic voice, influential punk glamour, and infectious live shows have catapulted her to stardom. Lauper won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist with her first album, She’s So Unusual, and became the first woman in history to have four top-five singles from a debut album. Since then, Lauper has released 10 additional studio albums, yielding timeless classics like “Time After Time” and “True Colors,” and the anthemic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She’s been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, seven American Video Awards, and 18 MTV Video Music Awards. In 2013, Lauper became the first solo woman to win a Best Original Score Tony Award for Kinky Boots. She contributed a Tony-nominated song to the Broadway musical SpongeBob SquarePants and is currently writing the score for the Broadway adaptation of the 1988 feature film Working Girl. A pillar of female success, Lauper was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, released a New York Times best-selling memoir, and continues to collect impressive accolades across the music industry and beyond. In 2018, she designed and launched a sold-out Home Decor Collection with Grandin Road and added a guest starring role on the CBS hit TV show Magnum P.I. She closed 2018 by receiving the Icon Award from Billboard at its 13th annual Women In Music event and brought down the house with a rousing tribute to Cher at the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2019, She’s So Unusual was honored for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic importance by being inducted into the National Recording Registry. of the Library of Congress.
Lauper is tireless in her advocacy work, especially for women, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those who identify as LGBTQ. Her commitment runs so deep that she started her own charity, the True Colors United in 2008 to bring an end to homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and The Juilliard School. By 1974, Glass had created a large collection of music for The Philip Glass Ensemble. The period culminated in the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach. Since Einstein, Glass’s repertoire has grown to include music for opera, dance, theater, orchestra, and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Recent works include Glass’s memoir Words Without Music, Symphony No. 12, his first Piano Sonata, and the opera Circus Days and Nights.
Glass received the Praemium Imperiale in 2012, the US National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2016, and 41st Kennedy Center Honors in 2018. He continues to perform around the globe with world-renowned musicians.
EARTHGANG’s Olu Fann
One-half of the Grammy-nominated Atlanta hip-hop duo EARTHGANG, Olu Fann is a producer, songwriter, and celebrated performing artist and philanthropist. The pair debuted with a string of EPs, and quickly garnered a reputation for their eclectic style and infectious live energy. Marrying lean, sharp-eyed lyricism with Southern-fried soul, every song arrives fully formed, hitting hard and landing jokes while also delving deep into political issues. Alongside critically acclaimed albums like Mirrorland and Spilligion (with supergroup Spillage Village), Fann continues to diversify his repertoire with globally eclectic collaborations that spotlight his mastery of melodies and production work.
Born in Beirut, trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf is one of the most popular instrumentalists on the French music scene, famous for his fusion of multiple genres. He achieved international acclaim after being spotted by legendary producer Quincy Jones during the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2017.
Between 2007 and 2019, Maalouf composed, arranged, and/or produced 15 albums for himself and other artists. He also wrote 10 symphonic works as well as music for feature films. Last November, Maalouf celebrated his 40th birthday and released his album 40 Melodies, including collaborations with such artists as Jon Batiste, Kronos Quartet, Alfredo Rodriguez, Arturo Sandoval, and Sting.