Titled simply as Eve, Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo, 53, is presently promoting her 11th studio album which she says is dedicated to the “resilience and beauty” of the African woman.
“Why I call the album Eve is not only because of the first woman but it is also the little name of my mother. Our family calls her Eva because her name is Yvonne. I talk a lot about my father but my mum is also an important person for me because she was a single child. She gave everything for her kids. She would die for us,” Ms Kidjo says in a promotional video for the album.
Ms Kidjo, a singer/songwriter, activist and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador says the album is a celebration of the African woman who is not honoured well enough for the work she does, and the album incorporates songs of women singing in Kenya and her native Benin.
Eva, one of the song titles, celebrates the enduring friendship some women maintain throughout their names and not surprisingly, is the name of her mother. She mixes different musical styles from funk, rumba, gospel, world fusion, salsa, jazz and traditional African music.
The songs are interspersed with a lot of percussion and their meaning has a strong root in African traditions. The 13-track album is fused with the high beats and extremely rhythmic music that is now a trademark of the Grammy Award winning “Voice of Africa,” Ms Kidjo. She uses a wide range of Beninese languages in the songs but a few songs also have French and English in them.
Speaking to BBC radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Ms Kidjo reveals she was frightened when her mother first made her sing on stage at the tender age of 6 but has since blossomed into one of the best musical exports from Africa.
“The strength that I have, the woman that I am today, is due to the examples of those women in Africa”, She says.
Ms Kidjo now runs a foundation, Batonga, that promotes the education of African women and fights against discrimination in all its forms from early marriages to female genital mutilation (FGM).
Angelique Kidjo has come a long way from the time she first sang with her mother’s theatre troupe as a fresh-faced six-year-old in Cotonou, Benin. She fled to Paris, France in 1983 when she was 23, following political instability in her home country.
Ms Kidjo is renowned for her energetic stage performances and his year published her memoires titled “ Spirit Rising”. The book chronicles her rise to stardom and the problems she faced on her way up. She fights for freedom, and the respect of the dignity of people not only in Africa but around the world. She is married with children.