Angelique Kidjo’s cultural musical vision
Home to the country of Benin in West Africa, singer-songwriter, actress and activist Angelique Kidjo places culture at the center of her artistry. The four-time Grammy award winner released her 15th studio album on June 18, titled Mother Nature. Kidjo stirred up a pot with various flavors of sounds native to the Black community. Featuring a series of Black artists from places like Zimbabwe, Mali, Nigeria and the U.S., she crafted a zestful, versatile project true to the core of the Afrobeat genre and African spirituality.
Mother Nature is not only dynamic for its mixture of sounds but also for the use of different languages that highlight her value in culture as well as the emphasis on her activism. Kidjo sings in Yoruba, French, Fon and English as she uplifts the upcoming African generation raised on political discontent and calls for women’s sovereignty. Serving as a call for female empowerment, “Dignity” cries out for courtesy towards marginalized folk with lyrics like, “Respect is reciprocal.” Kidjo and Nigerian artist Yemi Alade join forces in this track to sing about their growth as women and those who brought them up, crisscrossing between pop and Afrobeats smoothly.
“Africa, One Of A Kind” meshes three generations of pan-African pride, Mr Eazi (Nigerian Banku singer), Salif Keita (Mailan legend) and Kidjo, to confront those who claim their devotion towards Africa in celebration of cultural pride. Kidjo allows the Nigerian feature Burna Boy to take the spotlight in “Do Yourself,” sprinkling in a pinch of vocal riffs that tell stories and add eccentricity. This accentuates her attention to detail which creates fullness to the project. Both “Oman Oba” and “Take It Or Leave It” are unquestionably inspired by old-school Zimbabwean music and the worldly style/tones of highlife (genre originated in Ghana).
Leaving powerful messages throughout this project, Kidjo once again screams her activism from the rooftops in “Fired Up.” It speaks about mobilizing action in times of grief and marginalization and pays homage to those before her who stood up against deceit and colonialism. She stitches together the final piece of an empowering quilt, yelling: “Ready, set, we are fired up!” The album’s title track is also filled with important messages about the power of mother nature and joining together as one. An urban African legend states that the environment/weather is a clear sign of dark, rough times and is a way of mother nature trying to say something to those who pay attention. Kidjo points that out as she proclaims, “Mother nature has a way of warning us/ we need each other now.”
Kidjo’s trajectory throughout her career is to show love to her home while changing both the perspective of its people and the world in general, which is clear in Mother Nature. She gives a chance for younger pan-African artists to shine while incorporating powerful storytelling and structured idiosyncrasies.