Angélique Kidjo On The Staggering Diversity Of African Musical Styles

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“Our continent is huge. From one place to another, the language changes; the rhythm changes,” the four-time GRAMMY winner and 12-time nominee tells “The way the rhythm is danced and the way it’s sung and carried is different. Even in my small country of 12 million people, man!”

Despite this boundless range of forms — and the recent proliferation of Afrobeats around the globe — try asking the average American who their five favorite African musicians are. You might be dismayed. But in narrowing this cultural gap, Afrobeats takes on added utility — Kidjo refers to it not only as a standalone style, but as a “vehicle” for traditional rhythms and melodies.

“If you take any music from any part of Africa and put it in Afrobeats, it gives you a different flavor of Afrobeats,” Kidjo says. “Because you have the pulse of Afrobeats in it, you can consume and discover music from north to south, east to west, and central Africa in a way that we haven’t [before].”

For those interested in establishing a foothold in this musical multiverse, Kidjo is something of a hub for emerging talent; her ability to inhabit any style she wishes makes her an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the breadth of African sounds. Just look at the range of contexts that garnered her GRAMMY nominations at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards.

In the Best Global Music Album category, her multifarious album Mother Nature got a nod. And in Best Global Music Performance, she’s got collaborations with Afrobeats hero Burna Boy (“Do Yourself”) and household-name cellist Yo-Yo Ma (“Blewu”). What’s her attitude toward these global accolades? Kidjo feels magnanimity toward everyone nominated — and a desire to see her musical community elevated on the world stage.

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