Last Friday, four-time Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Angélique Kidjo came to Classical to perform her unique music which blends her African roots with a myriad of other influences. The event was attended primarily by Classical students, families, and alumni along with teachers and students from other Providence public schools. By sponsoring this event, FirstWorks, a performing arts nonprofit, provided a great opportunity for students to hear Kidjo’s music and to ask her directly about her art.
The performance flowed seamlessly between personal storytelling and musical pieces. Accompanied by Dominic James on guitar, Kidjo recounted moments in her life and career, punctuated with songs that showcased her incredible vocal talent while representing those key events.
Kidjo told the audience captivating stories about her childhood growing up in Benin, her tendency from a young age to question the world around her, and how she first got into performing. She talked about the support she received from her family but also about hardships she faced in Benin, particularly after dictator Mathieu Kérékou seized power in a 1971 military coup. At that time, people lived in a state of paranoia: it was impossible to trust anyone. Musicians in particular were prone to disappearing due to government repression which severely limited art and musical expression. Kidjo managed to escape to Paris, France, with the help of her family. She later became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. For much of her life, she has been involved in activism, particularly focusing on providing education for girls in the developing world and protecting the environment.
Following the performance was a Q&A with Kidjo, led by City Councilor Nirva LaFortune. Audience members asked questions on a variety of topics, including about her musical inspirations and process.
Angélique Kidjo’s performance was musically awe-inspiring and moved the audience to make a difference in their own communities. Hopefully more great opportunities like this one can take place at Classical in the future.