Angelique Kidjo visits Hurst over Zoom

Grace Smrcka, Staff writer

Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Kidjo is also a fourtime Grammy Award winner.

At the age of six, Kidjo was already performing with her mother’s theatre troupe. She began singing in her school band, “Les Sphinx,” and found great success as a teenager with her adaptation of “Les Trois Z” which played on national radio.

As an activist, Kidjo has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. She has traveled to countries across all of Africa including her most recent work in 2017, where Kidjo, Zeynab Abib and seven of Benin’s greatest artists joined forces to create a song calling on the population to “Say No to Child Marriage” as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage.

Since March 2009, Kidjo has also been an advocate for “Africa for Women’s Rights.” This campaign was launched by The International Federation of Human Rights. When addressing Mercyhurst, Kidjo brought light to the concept of great triumph resulting from struggle, and the connections between the political, social and musical worlds.

She shared memories of a time in West Africa where performers were told to stop singing due to political conflict in her country, Benin. As a child who had a deep appreciation for traditional music and dance, she knew that she could not live a life without it. However, such conflicts did not stop her from sharing her musical talents with the world.

She soon moved away and became an independent artist in France. Kidjo’s presentation at Mercyhurst took place over Zoom on Oct. 11 and was question-and-answer based. This gave audience members the opportunity to ask Kidjo about her life and accomplishments.

The presentation was moderated primarily by MIAC director, Dr. Brett Johnson. Professors Rob Hoff and Alice Edwards also moderated throughout the session.

Viewers were incredibly lucky to have gotten a few live performances out of Kidjo throughout the session. Throughout the Q&A, Kidjo spoke honestly and from the heart, and her performances were no different. One could truly see and feel how much she loves what she does.

Many questions asked were in reference to her great success as an African woman and musician. One question in particular asked about her motivation to keep moving forward each day. In response, she stated that we must do better, and be better, if we want the world to become a better place.

The final question was a request for her to sing a celebratory African song as a close to the performance. Even presented through a virtual platform, Kidjo’s message and spirit were well received by the audience. She spoke passionately about staying true to yourself and sticking to your morals, and her leadership and confidence were easily recognizable.

While presenting herself with grace, she was still proudly holding her TIME Magazine title of “Africa’s Premier Diva.” There is certainly a great amount that the world can learn from Ms. Angelique Kidjo.