Arts, Culture & Media

Angelique Kidjo sings in order to bring attention to challenges in Africa

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Angelique Kidjo brings attention to issues such as child malnutrition and teen marriage through her music.

Credit:

Pierre Marie Zimmerman

Angelique Kidjo is no stranger to those who follow world music. The Grammy Award winner from Benin has fans all over the world.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

In her new memoir, "Spirit Rising, My Life, My Music," she tells the story of growing up in Benin, in West Africa.

She also has a new album out, called "Eve," which she dedicates to "the women of Africa, to their resilience and beauty."

It was when Kidjo was visiting Kenya as a goodwill ambassador that the concept of the album came together.

As part of her trip for UNICEF, Kidjo had to visit two villages. The first visit was "emotionally-drenching," Kidjo recalls.

"There was a child of 18 months that couldn't sit by himself, couldn't hold his head straight and could barely cry," Kidjo says. The child was suffering from acute malnutrition, also known as stunting.

The child's mother, who was pregnant with another child, was also suffering from the same problem.

"I was mad and I thought we have to fix this problem," she says.

Kidjo says as a mother this experience left her with a "sore soul."

Then she traveled to the second village. As soon as she arrived, a group of women started to sing a traditional song and began dancing. It was all to welcome her.

Angelique says she joined in without hesitation. Her husband, Jean Hebrail, took notice and started to record the scene on his phone.

Later on, the voices of those women became the core of Angelique's album "Eve."

Kidjo's music is intertwined with her activism. She fights for girls education and issues such as eradicating poverty and child marriage.

At 53, Kidjo says she's not sure if it's her activism that gives her the energy to put on long, physically-demanding concerts or the opposite.

She says the energy runs in the family giving the example for her mother who is 87, and unstoppable.

"Both my grandmothers died when they were over 100-years-old. I'm going to be around for a while," she says with an energetic chuckle.