As the Blues Festival draws closer, Mandy Nolan has a chat with Angelique Kidjo about the extraordinary career and extraordinary heart of this extraordinary woman.
Angelique, what did it feel like to be listed as one of the Top 100 Top Most Inspiring Women in the World? It feels wonderful but it comes with great responsibilities: I have to live up to it, which I don’t take lightly, but in fact I’m still the same: very humble!
Do you believe that every individual has a duty to assist where they can to relieve the sufferings or assist their fellow human being? Yes, otherwise why are we here on Earth? We’re not made to live alone. I feel there is just one humanity and most of the division and inequality are avoidable.
Do you think we have become more spiritually disconnected from each other? No, I don’t think that we’re spiritually disconnected but the social media make us believe we are closer because we’re able to communicate more easily, but I feel it is an illusion. Exchanging email and texts won’t replace a great dinner together!
Can you tell me what it means to be a Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF? It means to use your goodwill and free will to give back what you have been blessed with. As a child I was lucky enough to have access to education and good health and I want every child on my continent to have the same chance. My hope is to help UNICEF achieve the goal of universal primary education for every child in poor countries, especially in Africa.
What do you believe are the most powerful tools for assisting change and battling poverty? Empowering the people to take the lead in their own lives. The old saying is: ‘Teach people to fish instead of feeding them’. It is not just about getting rid of your guilt but building a lasting relationship.
How did growing up listening to Beninese traditional music help nurture your musical development? It’s like asking me how I can breathe without the traditional music of my country. This music is so powerful and has historically influenced most of popular music through slavery. I wouldn’t have been able to understand any other music without it.
You have incredibly diverse musical influences and styles – how do you bring them all together? I never ask myself that question. I just follow my inspiration because I spent my childhood listening to all kind of styles from different parts of the world. It is just music, after all. The labels are only a marketing tool for the record stores!
Why is Angelique Kidjo such an incredible creative melting pot? Well the credit has to go to my parents and my family. If I wasn’t raised in such melting pot of people visiting the house as I grew up in Cotonou, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today.
What should we expect for your Blues Festival show? Lots of fun together, and if it rains, a lot of mud too!