LISTEN | Angélique Kidjo talks creation of ‘Mother Nature’, peace in Africa and her legacy
‘My mother always said to me, ‘You were born to sing. Do it at any cost’.’
The definition of “black don’t crack”, four-time Grammy award winner Angélique Kidjo is still relevant as a musician and a pro-Africa activist whose sole mandate is to constantly remind the world Africa is and has always been enough.
Having started singing before she could talk, Angélique began singing professionally at the age of 20. She had been singing informally since the tender age of six.
With a career that spans more than four decades, one would assume Angélique would run out of inspiration, but the 60-year-old said inspiration chases after her and when hit she has no choice but to put it into music.
“One thing that really amazes me and that I have stopped questioning is that inspiration is endless. It is there all the time. It doesn't give you a warning, it just comes.”
Here is what she had to say:
The musician said her latest album, Mother Nature, had been in the works since 2019. She said the inspiration hit her so heavily that she felt like the album gave her no choice but to put in the work to bring it to life.
“I started writing this album in 2019. It was there, it needed to come out and I knew at that time when I was inspired that I wanted this album to be turned towards my continent with other continents only a part of it.”
Mother Nature features superstars Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi and Sampa the Great. It was important for Angélique that there be a balance between the younger and older generations.
“I was worried because when I was travelling, I was seeing so much drought, more and more homeless people everywhere I go and I wondered, ‘is this climate change?’ or is it something else? But I knew something definitely wasn’t right in our systems, in our government and our societies. So when something is not right, the first manifestation is mother nature. When you no longer hear the birds chirping in the morning, something is wrong. We are close to the doom.”
Music, she said, has always been her greatest ally and safe space.
“My music has always been something that is me. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s like breathing. It is the most natural thing. Music has always been my life.
“I think music is the only form of art that really allowed me to be me, to free, to be bold, to be courageous, to feel pain, to cry, to wake up and say today was a bad day
“As my father used to say as he saw me grow up, every other child that he had started talking but I started singing before I was talking and I don’t know where that came from.”
Angélique said she lost her mother last month and it was difficult for her. However, the musician said her mother’s wisdom comforted her and always directed her back to the music.
“My mother always said to me, ‘You were born to sing. Do it at any cost’.”