Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo won a prestigious Grammy Award at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on Monday 15 February. The award is her third Grammy in her illustrious career and her second in consecutive years.
Kidjo first won a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2008 for her eighth studio album, Djin Djin, which included a star-studded list of guest artists including Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana and Peter Gabriel. She won her second Grammy in 2015 for her 2014 album EVE in the Best World Music category. That win was dedicated to the women of Africa, with Kidjo explaining in her acceptance speech: “For me, music is a weapon of peace and today more than ever, as artists we have a role to play in the stability of this world.”
Now the 55-year-old Cotonou-born diva has just won the 2016 Grammy, again for Best World Music Album, for her latest album Sings, a collaboration with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.
In accepting her latest award Kidjo danced onto stage to the sounds of James Brown, before announcing: "I want to dedicate this Grammy to all the traditional musicians in Africa, in my country, and all the young generation, the new African music, vibrant, joyful music that comes from my continent that you have to get yourself to discover. Africa is on the rise. Africa is positive. Africa is joyful. Let's get together and be one through music and say no to hate and violence through music. Thank you!"
Kidjo victory came at the expense of two of the other African nominees at the Grammies, South African legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Malawi’s Zomba Prison Project, who were nominated in the same category.
In other categories where African artists were nominated, Ghanaian reggae man Rocky Dawuni lost out in the Best Reggae category to Jamaican band Morgan Heritage. South African flautist Wouter Kellerman was unsuccessful in his bid for a second consecutive Grammy when he missed out in the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album category to American act Snarky Puppy’s collaboration with the Dutch Metropole Orkest. Flying under the radar South African gospel singer Neville D was in the running for Gospel Performance/Song for co-writing 'How Awesome Is Our God', recorded by American band Israel and Newbreed, but he missed out to American star Kirk Franklin.
Zimbabwean producer Brian Soko, part of the production trio The Order, was nominated in the Best Rap Album category for producing three songs on Nicki Minaj’s Pink Print album. Soko and The Order picked up two Grammys in 2015 (Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance) for their work on Beyoncé’s double platinum record ‘Drunk In Love’ after being nominated in five categories. But Soko lost out this year to American rapper Kendrick Lamar, who was the night’s biggest winner, taking home five Grammys, while compatriots Taylor Swift and Alabama Shakes won three trophies each.
Nigerian-American singer Jidenna, nominated in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category for his hit 'Classic Man', also lost out to Lamar.
One small consolation for African music fans will be that Lamar recently revealed that his winning album To Pimp A Butterfly was largely inspired by his 2014 trip to South Africa, during which he toured the country, visiting historic sites such as Nelson Mandela's former jail cell on Robben Island. In the build-up to the awards Lamar recently revealed in an interview with the Grammy website: “I felt like I belonged in Africa. I saw all the things that I wasn’t taught. Probably one of the hardest things to do is put [together] a concept on how beautiful a place can be, and tell a person this while they’re still in the ghettos of Compton. I wanted to put that experience in the music.
“The idea was to make a record that reflected all complexions of black women. There’s a separation between the light and the dark skin because it’s just in our nature to do so, but we’re all black," added Lamar. "This concept came from South Africa and I saw all these different colours speaking a beautiful language.”