The Musical Journey and Family Life of Grammy Winner Angélique Kidjo

Published February 10, 2024

Angélique Kidjo, at 63 years old, is a celebrated musician and activist who has claimed five Grammy Awards during her illustrious career. Her journey in music was deeply influenced by her father, Franck, a musician and postal government official from Ouidah, Benin, in West Africa. Kidjo's father was a remarkable role model, shaped by the hardships faced by his own mother, a widow who instilled in him the value of education and resilience.

Kidjo grew up in a large household as one of 10 children, where the enduring love between her parents stood out against occasional heated debates. She began her musical exploits early, fronting her brother's band by the age of nine, embracing the nickname 'When Why How' due to her inquisitive nature. The family collaboration was close-knit, with her brothers Alfred and Yves playing bass and drums respectively.

As a teenager, Kidjo was a self-professed tomboy with little interest in boys, largely because of the intimidating prospect of introducing a boyfriend to her seven brothers and father. This familial interrogation process was playful yet daunting enough that Kidjo warned her family it might deter her from ever finding a husband.

Her strong-willed nature became evident when she ended a high school relationship after the boyfriend suggested she would need to quit singing if they were to marry. The suggestion led to an immediate breakup, solidifying Kidjo's dedication to her musical career. This resolve took her to France in 1983, following a coup in Benin, where she pursued her studies in jazz. It was in France that she met her husband, Jean Hebrail, whom she married in 1987.

Together with Jean, she had a daughter named Naima and continued to create music, with Jean playing a key role in her debut international album, 'Parakou.' The couple's collaboration extends to composing music together from their home in New York. Kidjo also recounts a poignant visit to Nelson Mandela's prison cell, an experience that left an indelible mark on her, particularly Mandela's words on forgiveness.

Kidjo continues to captivate audiences with upcoming performances scheduled at prestigious venues including the Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Sydney Opera House, and the Adelaide Festival Centre.

music, family, love