Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy–winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. She is well-known throughout the world and considered by many to be the most prominent of all contemporary African female singers.
Born in Cotonou, she started singing in her school band, Les Sphinx, and found success as a teenager with her adaptation of Miriam Makeba's 'Les Trois Z'. She recorded the album 'Pretty' with Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. Continuing political conflicts in Benin prevented her from being an independent artist in her own country and led her to relocate to Paris in 1983. While working various day jobs to pay for her tuition, Kidjo studied music at the CIM, a reputable jazz school in Paris where she met and married musician and producer Jean Hebrail, with whom she has composed most of her music. She started out as a backup singer in local bands. In 1985, she became the lead singer of the known jazz/rock band Jasper van't Hof's Pili Pili, releasing three albums between 1987 and 1990. By the end of the 1980s, she had become one of the most popular live performers in Paris and recorded a solo album, 'Parakou', for the Open Jazz Label. She was then discovered in Paris by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who signed her in 1991. She recorded four albums for Island until Blackwell's departure from the label. In 2000 she was signed in New York by Columbia Records, for which she recorded two albums. Her most recent releases are 'EVE' (2014), 'Spirit Rising' (2012) and 'Oyo' (2010). Kidjo is fluent in Fon, French, Yorùbá and English, and sings in all four languages. In January 2014 she published her biography, 'Spirit Rising'.
Among her charity work and activism, Kidjo has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. in 2010 she was named a Peace Ambassador for the African Union. She is also the founder and director of the Batonga Foundation, which works to improve access to education for girls in Africa. In June 2013, she was elected vice-president of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d´Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC).