Angelique Kidjo’s Performance Was Sizzling Hot At The Fourth Annual Jazz In The Gardens
On Sunday, March 29, 2009, patrons gathered on the grounds at the Dolphin Stadium for the Fourth Annual Jazz In The Gardens and in the process, they were treated to the musical stylings of Angelique Kidjo. The Grammy Award winning Angelique Kidjo who performed following the red hot Jonathan Butler, is herself a sizzling hot singer-songwriter who was born in Contonou, Benin. She brought her show to the people of South Florida with her high energy stage presence, mezmerizing voice and a barrage of fancy footworks. Kidjo danced her way through her set and invited the crowd to participate likewise. She belted hits after hits in her native language and had about 40,000 screaming fans singing the hooks from songs like Senamou and Gimme Shelter. Angelique, who says she grew up listening to singers like James Brown , Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Wonder and Carlos Santana, did not disappoint the fans as she showcased her versatality and soulful swagger. She paid tribute to the Rolling Stones displaying her ability to hang with the bad boys of rock and roll. Concert goers were treated to her diverse musical renditions, which ranged from rock and roll, reggae and even salsa. By the end of her performance, she was already a household name in South Florida. This diva came to play and held nothing back.
Kidjo’s musical career tells a story of one determined individual who fought for her name and fame. By the time she was six, Kidjo was performing with her mother’s theatre troupe, giving her an early appreciation for traditional music and dance. She started singing in her school band Les Sphinx and found success as a teenager with her adaptation of Miriam Makeba’s “Les Trois Z” which played on national radio. She recorded the album Pretty with the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar. It featured the songs Ninive, Gbe Agossi and a tribute to the singer Bella Bellow, one of her role models. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. Continuing political conflicts in Benin prevented her from being an independent artist in her own country and led her to relocate to Paris in 1983.
While working various day jobs to pay for her tuition, Angelique studied music at the CIM, a reputable Jazz school in Paris where she met and married musician and producer Jean Hebrail with whom she has composed most of her music. She started out as a backup singer in local bands. In 1985, she became the frontsinger of the known Euro-African jazz/rock band Jasper van’t Hof’s Pili Pili. Three Pili Pili studio albums followed: Jakko (1987) Be In Two Minds (1988, produced by Marlon Klein) and Hotel Babo (1990). By the end of the 1980s, she had become one of the most popular live performers in Paris and recorded a solo album called Parakou for the Open Jazz Label.
She was then discovered in Paris by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell who signed her in 1991. She recorded four albums for Island until Chris Blackwell’s departure from the label. In 2000 she was signed in New York by Columbia Records for which she recorded two albums. Her musical influences include the Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin styles; as well as her childhood idols Bella Bellow, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Miriam Makeba and Carlos Santana. She has made her own renditions of George Gershwin’s Summertime, Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child, and The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, and has collaborated with the likes of Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Price, Branford Marsalis, Robbie Nevil, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Cassandra Wilson. Kidjo’s hits include the songs “Agolo”, “We We”, “Adouma” “Wombo Lombo” “Afirika”,”Batonga” and her version of “Malaika”. Kidjo is fluent in Fon, French, Yoruba, and English and sings in all four languages; she also has her own personal language which includes words that serve as songtitles such as Batonga. Malaika is a song sung in Swahili language. She often utilizes Benin’s traditional Zilin vocal technique and jazz vocalese.
Jazz In The Gardens took Angelique on a journey to Miami Gardens, which was rather fitting, as she recorded her first album entitled “Logozo” for Island Records between Miami and Paris, working with Miami Sound Machine drummer Joe Galdo. That album featured Branford Marsalis and Manu DiBango on saxophones. it was released worldwide in 1991 and reached number one on the Billboard World Music chart. Music videos for the singles We We and Batonga were released and Angelique made her first world tour, appearing at many festivals and headlining the Olympia Hall in Paris on October 31, 1992.
In 2002 Angelique traveled to Salvador de Bahia to start recording the Axe percussion grooves for this album inspired by the Afro-Brazilian culture. She worked with famous songwriters Carlinhos Brown and Vinicius Cantuaria. On the Brazilian version of the album, Gilberto Gil joined her on Refavela and Daniella Mercury on Tumba. Dave Matthews appears on the song Iwoya.
Angelique Kidjo released an album titled Djin Djin on May 1, 2007. Many guests appear on the album including Josh Groban, Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Peter Gabriel, Amadou and Mariam, Ziggy Marley, and Branford Marsalis. The title, Djin Djin, refers to the sound of a bell in Africa that greets each new day. The album is produced by Tony Visconti, who is known for his work with David Bowie, Morrissey, and T. Rex, among others. Djin Djin won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music album and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding World Music album.