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Angélique Kidjo
Biographical information
Full name

Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kango Manta Zogbin


July 14, 1960


Ouidah, Atlantique, Benin

Career information

1982 – Present


Angélique Kidjo is an African singer-songwriter who sang a cover of "We Are One" for Return to Pride Rock.



Kidjo was born in Ouidah (then named Dahomey), a small harbor town on the coast of Benin, on July 14, 1960 to Franck and Yvonne Kidjo.[1] She was born into the Petah tribe and was baptized under the name Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kango Manta Zogbin, which roughly translates to "the blood of a lantern will not light a spark."[1] Alongside her eight brothers and sisters, Kidjo was encouraged to be creative from a young age, as her father enjoyed amateur photography and playing the banjo, and her mother was a renowned choreographer and theatre director.[1] A young Kidjo was encouraged to learn many different languages in addition to her native tongue of Fon.[1]

At the young age of six, Kidjo began performing with her mother's theatre troupe, accompanying them across West Africa as a dancer and singer.[1] She briefly abandoned the troupe at age nine to go to school, but two years later, she joined her brothers' group, the Kidjo Brothers Band, as the lead vocalist.[1] Due to her brothers' influence, Kidjo became passionate about soul music, learning James Brown's greatest hits by heart.[1]

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In 1979, Kidjo had her first big break when a local radio station invited her to perform one of her songs on a daytime show.[1] Being an avid anti-apartheid campaigner, she chose to perform a piece written about Winnie Mandela and the political struggle in South Africa.[1] Due to her success on the local radio, Kidjo came into contact with Ekambi Brillant, a Cameroonian producer and singer, who encouraged Kidjo to record her debut album in the studio.[1] Along with Brillant, Kidjo flew to Paris, where she recorded her first album, Pretty, which was co-produced by her brother, Oscar Kidjo.[1]

The album hit record stores in 1980 and proved a huge success among Africans.[1] Two hit singles emerged from the album, "Ninivé" and "Pretty", after which thousands of Africans would come to see 'Angélique Pretty' perform live.[1]

After the success of her first album, Kidjo was encouraged by Brillant to try launching her career in France.[1] Kidjo moved in with her brother, who was based in the French capital, in 1983, but she struggled to get by and dropped out of her first term as a law student at university.[1] In 1988, Kidjo formed her own group, Angie Kidjo, with a number of young talented French musicians from the jazz world, and went on to marry Jean Hébraïl, her backing group's bass player.[1]

A year later, Kidjo launched her solo career with a modern fusion album entitled Parakou, named after a town in central Benin where there is a variety of cultures and musical styles.[1] "Blewu" proved to be one of the best tracks on the album, featuring Kidjo's old pianist friend, Jasper van't Hof, on the keyboard.[1]

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That same year, Kidjo was invited to support her childhood idol, Miriam Makeba, in Paris.[1] Together, Kidjo and Makeba performed at the Olympia and proved to be an extremely compatible team, as they shared the same dynamic temperament and political ideals.[1] Kidjo returned to the Olympia in 1992, this time as a solo artist, and chose Zairean singer Lokua Kanza as the artist who would support her.[1] After the concert, Kidjo retired from her career to care for her infant daughter, Naïma-Laura, who was born in the spring of 1993.[1]

In 1995, Kidjo returned to her homeland of Benin to travel the length of the country, recording traditional music from several ethnic groups with her husband.[1] Her efforts in Benin would later serve as inspiration for her next album, Fifa.[1]

For her album Oremi, Kidjo flew to the United States to record.[1] Though most of the tracks were written by Kidjo and her husband, an innovative cover version of Jimi Hendrix's hit "Voodoo Child" was included as well.[1] During her recording session, Kidjo was joined in the studio by several prestigious guest stars, including saxophone player Branford Marsalis and singer Cassandra Wilson.[1]

Kidjo moved to New York in 1998, citing more creative opportunities and musical facilities as a primary reason.[1] A few years later, Kidjo was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and used her career to focus on girls' education.[1] She founded the Batonga Foundation, which supports secondary school and higher education for girls in Africa.[1]

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride

In 1998, Kidjo performed a Fon cover of "We Are One" for Return to Pride Rock, the official soundtrack from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.[2] She recorded a music video for the song, which features footage from the film and Kidjo dancing and singing.[3]

Personal Life

In 1987, Kidjo married French musician and producer Jean Hébrail.[1] Their daughter, Naïma-Laura, was born in 1993.[1]

External Links



Angelique Kidjo - "We Are One"

Kidjo's cover of "We Are One"