• Angelique Kidjo Speaks

    August 31, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    KidjoWe won't meet until tomorrow or Friday, but I had an opportunity to ask Angelique Kidjo, the great singer from Benin in West Africa, about SING THE TRUTH! .. the three-woman concert coming to WBGO from the Detroit Jazz Festival, Labor Day at noon. You do not want to miss it!

    SING THE TRUTH! is Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright with a list of 40 songs that they pare down to about a dozen. They make some of the choices while they're onstage.

    "We do it as we go along, as we feel. That’s the beauty, it’s not written in stone. . . there is a variety of ways we pick and choose depending on how we feel.

    "I’m thinking about 'Both Sides Now' from Joni Mitchell and '32 Flavors' from Ani di Franco, Tracy Chapman’s song 'All That You Have Is Your Soul,' 'How I Got Over' from Mahalia Jackson about how everybody struggles on a daily basis, Miriam Makeba’s song 'Savuda' from her really important last concert she made in South Africa before she left. She said, 'Jazz is my music but I will sing my ancestor’s song.' 'Saduva' means nobody can kill my spirit, you might try to think I’m not a human but I am, as a human being I deserve respect, nobody’s going to crush me."

    Angelique continues, "Women have shown us through the music, writing, craft how hard it is to be a woman in a man’s world, and how you can keep your femininity, your identity ... We are all about love."

    Kidjo is more than a singer; she dances! Her mother had a theater group. The performances were sufficiently long that she had to insert an intermission, but "when you put an intermission in Africa, you come back, the public is gone! So she put an African ballet in the middle of [the show], [and to do so] she went and learned the dancing and brought it back. And me, I was six years old,  ... I was sitting down there as 'Miss Curious' and I learned everything by heart," including the dances. "Because of my curiosity, there's no dance I can't repeat. I put my own stuff in, it's my way, I cannot move as you move because my body's different than your body."

    "One [more] thing, in Africa they  don’t call for an encore. [Instead,] they ask you to sing the same song three times back to back. When it comes to playing music, the concept as you know it here is not an African concept. There’s a moment that we need a release, a good time moment, to express a feeling, to remember the good time we spent with a person, the best way is through music. Gather together, dance, sing, and then we part."

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