TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2022 at 7:30PM
Venue Matthews Theater
About the Artist
Over the last three decades, Angélique Kidjo has cemented her status as one of the most singular and extraordinary voices in international music, inspiring countless artists with her ingenuity, eclecticism, and seemingly boundless creative spirit. On her new album Mother Nature, the four-time Grammy Award-winning luminary joins forces with many of her musical progeny, including some of the most captivating young creators of West African music, Afrobeat, Afro-pop, dancehall, hip-hop, and alt-R&B. The result is a truly visionary body of work, rooted in a deep understanding of musical tradition yet endlessly forward-thinking and inventive.
The follow-up to 2019’s Celia (her Grammy Award-winning, critically lauded tribute to Celia Cruz), Mother Nature fulfills a promise Kidjo first made upon accepting the award for Best Global Music Album at the 2016 Grammys, then reiterated after winning the Best World Music Album prize in 2020 and proudly proclaiming: “The new generation of artists coming from Africa are going to take you by storm, and the time has come.” As Kidjo points out, the album was sparked from a newly heightened awareness of her own musical legacy. “For many years I was mostly just focused on creating music that makes me happy and that’s true to who I am, but over time I started to realize the impact that my songs have had on the younger generations,” says Kidjo, who hails from the West African country of Benin. “This album came from thinking about how we can build from that, and start pushing things forward together.” To that end, Mother Nature confronts such pressing issues as racial inequity and the climate crisis, once again proving the longtime activist’s rare power to transform complex subject matter into music that’s radiantly joyful.
Now based in New York City, Kidjo has garnered an abundance of accolades through the years, including being anointed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time magazine and “the undisputed queen of African music” by the London Telegraph, as well as landing on The Guardian’s list of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. With her most recent work including 2018’s Remain in Light (her highly acclaimed track-by-track reimagining of Talking Heads’ landmark 1980 album), Kidjo has collaborated with the likes of Philip Glass, Alicia Keys, Bono, and Carlos Santana and performed with a host of international orchestras and symphonies, in addition to authoring a 2014 memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins). She’s also traveled the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and co-founded the Batonga Foundation in order to support the education of young girls in Africa.
For Kidjo, the making of Mother Nature provided a much-needed lifeline in the midst of the pandemic. “The togetherness, the sisterhood, the humanity I felt from all these collaborations gave me so much strength,” she says. “Somehow the fact that we weren’t in the same room brought even more urgency to the performance, and reminded us that—if we want to get back to some normalcy—we need everyone to sing and dance.” And in sharing the album with the world, Kidjo hopes that her songs might inspire the kind of togetherness that ultimately leads to transcendent change. “This album is a love letter to Mother Earth and all the values we hold dear: truth, trust, love, connection,” says Kidjo. “If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we are all a part of the same ecosystem—this planet is all we have. For our own survival, we need to recognize the humanity that we all share and learn how to live together. There’s just no other way.”