Filed Under:

Angélique Kidjo Shouts Out Africa's Women With Funk And Fire

Play associated audio

Angélique Kidjo started singing as a young girl in her native Benin, in West Africa. She moved on to Paris and Brooklyn — her current home — and, along the way, became one of the most acclaimed African singers alive.

Kidjo named her 10th album Eve, for her mother — and Yvonne Kidjo herself appears on the song "Bana," which urges the listener to value people over money. It's a sentiment in keeping with an album dedicated to the women of Africa, offering encouragement in song after song: Lift yourselves up. Marry who you love. Fight oppression. When Kidjo sings about these things, she does it with fire in her belly and funk in the groove.

The idea for the album began when Kidjo was swept into a group of singing women in Kenya. She worked a phone recording of that moment into a song, and then decided that women and women's voices should define the whole record. Later, she took her basic tracks to Benin, traveling its width and breadth, recording nine different choral groups to back up her own lead vocals. On Eve, the sings in multiple languages.

Kidjo says it wasn't always easy fitting these women's choirs into her sophisticated pop sound. "Are you kidding?" one group asked after hearing the track. "Do you really think we are going to sing that?" Kidjo's confident reply: "I'll teach you." She also put a few non-African musical guests through their paces. "Ebile" celebrates the pride parents take in their children over a tricky percussion groove from Benin and strings that work to keep up. The latter comes courtesy of the Kronos Quartet.

The women of Africa endure sometimes horrifying conditions and face huge challenges. But Angélique Kidjo says she believes with a passion that a better future awaits them. The singer's great gift is to pour what could so easily be anger and frustration into songs that uplift and inspire us. With Eve, she's done that again.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


From Trembling Teacher To Seasoned Mentor: How Tim Gunn Made It Work

Gunn, the mentor to young designers on Project Runway, has been a teacher and educator for decades. But he spent his childhood "absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school," he says.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

It's the season of food, and British food writer Bee Wilson has a book on how our food tastes are formed. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with her about her new book, "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat."

Osceola At The 50-Yard Line

The Seminole Tribe of Florida works with Florida State University to ensure it that its football team accurately presents Seminole traditions and imagery.

Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.