The first thing I said to myself when Angelique Kidjo came on stage at La Cigale on the 14th of October, was: “This woman is a soldier!”
Her full name is: Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo. This simply goes to show how strong she is. With such name!
The show at La Cigale was opened by Hungarian-Ghanaian singer, Sena Dagadu. Sena has a unique style. She dresses like a queen from some West African kingdom. Her headtie, the baggy trouser and hear earrings. She has a sultry, calming voice. Her hands, she moves them seductively when she sings; you think she is commanding her band. And her band members look at her as though they are smitten by her beautiful face. That’s how Sena takes us through a medley of music that night. She carries the audience along. Her French, although sounding a bit polished to the ear of an alien to the language, could come off as Frenglish.
Sena is beautiful, so is her music. She performs music from her album, Lots of Trees. Her form of music transcends tranquility. She’s that fresh voice you may never have heard.
Once she is done, Angelique Kidjo’s band members appear on stage and start warming the stage with instrumentals. It is a night everyone had been expecting. People are dressed in traditional African attires to dance along with Ms Kidjo, whose style of music is extremely bubbly, but what we don’t know is that there will be a huge dancing competition if you brought Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Usher Raymond and Angelique Kidjo on stage. There is no one who dances like her. No one. Not even Michael Jackson. No pun intended. This has nothing to do with her being a woman, but she is deep into her own music and dances as though she had been drugged by her music beats. Ms Kidjo deserves to be seen at her concerts. It’s not enough to listen to her music. You need to watch her.
When she appears on stage and sets the entire auditorium of La Cigale on fire, I broke down into tears. It was my first time of ever coming close to her and she touched my hand that night when she decided to walk into the audience and dance with them. Even at the end of the show, with so much happiness, I rushed to her and screamed at her: “My baby!” She shielded herself away from the clutches of her security men and replied: “Your baby?”
In 1996, when Wombo Lombo was released, I was very young. I was, let’s say, 7 years old. My father ran a record company and had lots of Vinyl records to play and also, cassettes and he had bought this music. I listened to it and kept singing along as a child, but I did not know what I was singing. Through the great art of Ms Kidjo, I realized that music is a language on its own; it speaks to your heart. It doesn’t need to be in your language for you to understand what it says. It has a soul of its own. Ms Kidjo is unapologetic about singing in languages she speaks. She did songs by Mariam Makeba, “Malaika” and “Pata Pata” and one by Bob Marley in fresh ways. Twenty years later, I am finally watching her sing on stage, but disappointingly, she doesn’t perform any of the songs we fell in love with her for, like Agolo, which her fans kept screaming about that night and she ignored it, to perform songs likeBomba, Bana and the one with Asa, “Eva” which is the title of her newest album, dedicated to African women.
When Ms Kidjo introduced Asa to the stage, my breath was taken away. I could not breathe. That moment when two Yoruba goddesses were on stage! It was magical.
Ms Kidjo’s fans got everything they wanted. She got down from stage and went to hug, greet, kiss and dance with them. She also assembled them on stage and made them dance one by one. A true performer. One of the finest in all shapes and forms. She is special. Her music is special. Her performance is special. Ms Kidjo will remain there forever. She is timeless just as her music. She is completely ageless. I don’t know how anyone would die happy without attending a Kidjo concert. That would be a disservice to their stay on earth. Make it a dream and achieve it! It’s worth it!
Onyeka Nwelue is award-winning author of The Abyssinian Boy (DADA Books, 2009) and Burnt (Hattus, 2014). He’s currently Professor of African Studies and Literature at Instituto d’Amicis, Puebla in Mexico. He is a founding member of The Trent Voices and he runs La Cave Musik, a record label, specialising in quality music from Africa and the Caribbean.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.