November 17, 2012
Angelique Kidjo: Class Act
There are few better ways to spend a rainy Saturday evening in Berkeley than to see Angelique Kidjo at Zellerbach Theater on the UC campus. I have lived in Berkeley, CA for almost three years and have failed to properly take advantage of the Cal Performance series at Zellerbach. Their acts are always of the highest quality and Angelique Kidjo was no exception. Kidjo has won dozens and dozens of awards; she has been honored in every way by, well, basically, everyone. She has performed with every major artist and been involved in advocating for many international relief organizations. And in addition to having a fantastic, powerful voice that was warm and reassuring, AK is also a great performer.
A.Kidjo is a Benin born musician now located in New York and also announced that she is a recent US citizen! While her music falls squarely in the world music category, blending elements of pop, reggae, blues and jazz with African beats, I think it is much more accessible to American audiences than many world artists that are often little more than tinny pop music in a non-English language. Of course, the category of world music, inexplicably excludes American music, which is certainly a part of the world. In any case, AK sings in French, English, Yoruba, Swahili and, at the Zellerbach, also in Hindi.
What surprised me most about her performance was her determination for everyone in the audience to have a good time. Almost midway through the performance, she jumped off stage and walked through the audience dancing and singing with everyone she came across. Then, for the last three songs, she invited the audience on to the stage. The downside to this invitation was that Angelique got buried in a sea of audience members and was no longer visible for the rest of the show until the encore. I’m sure for the 60-70 people on stage, it was a thrilling experience, for those remaining in their seat, it was less so.
Nevertheless, Kidjo’s stories of her African childhood and the life lessons she learned while on her way to becoming a world-recognized artist were still relatable for everyone’s daily struggles. At times, she did talk for, perhaps, too long in between songs but when she was singing and the band was playing, everything was right. Angelique is a force of nature and her performance is not one that will be forgotten easily or quickly.