Live Virtual Session: Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo joins Sean McPherson of The Current for a live virtual session. (MPR Video)

"Who doesn't know Celia Cruz in Africa? If you do a party in Africa and you don't play salsa, I think half of the people will leave in an hour," said Angelique Kidjo in a conversation with The Current's Sean McPherson. "We love to dance salsa."

Kidjo is a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress and activist who has been referred to by Time Magazine as "Africa's premier diva." Kidjo's two most recent releases, Remain in Light and CELIA, pay tribute to the Talking Heads and Celia Cruz, respectively. While both the Talking Heads and Celia Cruz were influenced by African elements, Kidjo reclaims their music for Africa, and thus, brings those songs full circle. While chatting with McPherson, Kidjo talked about how she has been drawn to Celia Cruz, due to the fact that Cruz never shied away from her African heritage.

"She used to sing the songs of my ancestors in Yoruba," Kidjo said. "Celia built the bridge between African-American music and all music in America."

Kidjo called in to this virtual session from Paris, where she has been spending time with her family throughout the duration of the global pandemic. She noted that recently, she has lost many loved ones and needed to be with her mother and siblings during these uncertain times, to spend quality time with them and to make sure that they are staying safe.

"I already lost my father-in-law," Kidjo said. "I just want to be close to my mother the most I can, so that's why we stay here."

To promote safety on a wider scale during this pandemic, Kidjo has re-released an updated version of her song "Pata Pata," which means "touch touch." The new version promotes keeping your distance, washing your hands, not touching your face, and generally being careful in order to save yourself and your loved ones.

Kidjo notes that there are people in Africa with no internet, no television, and only radio. She adds that while many have the luxury of receiving constant news, that is not the case everywhere in the world. However, within days of re-releasing her updated song, millions of people were reached.

"For now, we're going to put a pause on the touching," said Kidjo. "It doesn't mean that we won't touch ever again, but if you want to be able to touch your loved ones [in the future], you've got to keep your distance."

Songs Performed


02:20 "Crosseyed and Painless (Talking Heads Tribute)"
07:33 "Sahara (Celia Cruz Tribute)"
27:24 "Afrika"
Song 1 is from Kidjo's 2018 release, Remain in Light; song 2 is from 2019's CELIA; and track 3 is from 2017's Black Ivory Soul. All are available on Decca Records / Universal Music Group.

Hosted by Sean McPherson
Produced by Jesse Wiza
Engineered by Eric Romani
Article by Sylvia Jennings

External Link

Angelique Kidjo - official site

1 Photos

  • Angelique Kidjo, 'Celia'
    Angelique Kidjo, 'Celia' (Decca Records)