Steeped in the expansive musical landscape of Africa, the thrilling vocals of Angélique Kidjo, a two-time Grammy Award winner, resonate with the heart and lift the soul skywards. This wonderful gift for song, along with her passionate advocacy for African children and women’s rights, has been shared with the world at many diverse events over past decades, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert in South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize concerts and special shows at the United Nations General Assembly. Imbued with her infectious vitality and joy for life, Kidjo’s aura and magical musicality ensure an exhilarating encounter wherever she appears, transcending race, culture and language.
Born and raised in Benin, Kidjo discovered her affinity for music early, first performing with her mother’s theatre troupe at the age of six. Since then, her spell-binding journey as a vocalist has seen her draw on jazz, soul, reggae, folk, Afropop and Afrobeat, among other influences, to create an iconic blend of her own. She sings in English, French, Yoruba and Fon. For her début concert in Hong Kong, the mesmerising singer-songwriter teams up with an ensemble of top musicians to empower a night of high-energy insight, celebrating the rich heritage of Africa and our shared humanity.
Wong Chi-chung / Has been working in music, media, art and culture, and education for more than 30 years. He is currently the Assistant Director of General Education Unit at the University of Hong Kong, and a guest DJ for CR2 FM903.
Before the Internet age took over and put the window to world cultures at our fingertips, exotic performances touring to Hong Kong were often sold out in no time. While the concert business in Hong Kong is thriving nowadays, performances of rich traditions and ethnic roots are still a rare treat for the local audience. This autumn, the World Cultures Festival presents a selection of programmes with rich local and ethnic flavours from around the world that are not to be missed.Angélique Kidjo: Cross-border and Crossover Star of African Music
The queen of African music Angélique Kidjo gave up her successful music career in Benin, West Africa on a quest for freedom and fled to France, where she struggled against poverty to start a new life. The past three decades have seen her prolific output from crossborder and crossover collaborations with many music greats. Even for those who have not heard of Kidjo as the leading light of African music, her duos and collaborations with such artists as Peter Gabriel, Bono, Alicia Keys, Ziggy Marley, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, the Kronos Quartet and Philip Glass should ring a bell. Crossover not only brings together different musical styles in a unique exchange, but also connects musicians and music lovers from different genres and borders with one another.
The appeal of Kidjo lies in the mix of raw power and contemporary charm in her voice. Her influences range from jazz legend Nina Simone, soul queen Aretha Franklin, godfather of funk James Brown, genius rocker Jimi Hendrix, latin-inspired Carlos Santana to South African diva Miriam Makeba, which drive her experimentation with diverse musical styles. Daring and innovative, her music weaves Afrobeat, jazz, rock and pop into a stunning fusion. Kidjo’s personal style, marked by her closecropped hair and the occasional tribal head scarf with floral print, embodies the blending of tradition and contemporary culture, as well as the joining of Africa and other cultures. The concepts and visuals in her photos and music videos also demonstrate her courage and creativity in transcending all kinds of boundaries.
Kidjo has long made use of her fame to campaign for gender equality, especially women’s rights in Africa, winning an array of accolades for her contribution to the cause. Included in the BBC’s list of 50 African Icons and The Guardian’s list of 100 Most Inspiring Women, she has received awards from Time, Forbes and UNICEF, and honorary doctorates from Yale University and Berklee College of Music, in addition to her Grammy wins and Billboard honours.
Kidjo once said her music is about “empowerment, love and joy.”
Apart from her recordings and her autobiography Spirit Rising, Kidjo’s live performances are another window into the artistry and charm of the singer-songwriter. It is a privilege for the Hong Kong audience to see this phenomenal star performs live at this year’s World Cultures Festival.
The Chieftains: Totem of Irish Music
Another highlight of the Festival is the legendary Irish band The Chieftains. Besides such icons as St. Patrick’s Day, Riverdance, Yeats and Guinness, the music of The Chieftains is definitely one of the important totems of Irish culture. Since 1962, Paddy Moloney and his bandmates have made it their mission to promote traditional Irish music, with the uilleann pipes being an emblem of its beauty. Their songs bring us into the realm of Celtic culture, where life is but a breeze across the mountains and coasts in its unison with nature.
Although a few of the band members have passed away, bandleader Moloney is still taking it in his stride to keep the legend of The Chieftains alive. Their upcoming performance in Hong Kong is sure to captivate the audience with its incredible finesse.
The Festival will also feature Japanese taiko group Kodo, Korean street dance group Jinjo Crew, and the US band Los Texmaniacs in a showcase of the development of world cultures today.Post-script
I had my first exposure to world music in the early 1980s thanks to the releases from Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) and Real World Records. The faith and hopes underlying his work are inspirations for us all.
"I think it is the weak, the young and the minorities that you need to look after to get a healthy creative environment - to get a lot of choices, a lot of different styles of music, a lot of experimental stuff that everyone else feeds off."
– Peter Gabriel