Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Angélique Kidjo: "The heat is killing you guys, and I'm having fun!"

Grammy-winning recording artist Angélique Kidjo at Rockefeller Park
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Ah, yes, the heat.

It's summer. That means it's River to River Festival time. And that means it's Kid-joy time when that bighearted Angélique Kidjo, performer and philanthropist, once again holds court at Manhattan's Rockefeller Park, singing, dancing, playfully making us get up from our chairs to join in the great, transformative work of being completely alive.
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Despite this June's tropical clime--or, perhaps, because of it--last evening set the mood for joy as the Benin-born superstar and her band rolled through a 90-minute set of songs. As always, Kidjo brought us the world as she hears and loves it, drawing from the sounds of West, North and South Africa, Brazil, Bollywood, funk--that last represented by her encore, the beloved 1991 tune "Batonga"--and more. Her enthralling voice pierces the air, hooks everyone within earshot and rings us like bells.

(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa


















Beautiful child, you are so poor
But you dance like a princess and you do as you please
The rich people in the village are furious
"What on earth is going on ?"
Because you dance like a princess and you do as you please

--from "Batonga"

Recalling her father's dedication to providing education for all of his ten children--especially his daughters--Kidjo addressed the youngsters in the audience, saying "You can make choices for yourself....You are part of this moving world." As she does so often, she spoke out against female genital mutilation and violence against women. Her most rousing message, though, came via Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" which, in her voice, becomes an optimistic and unifying call to communal action. She wears it well.

(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Every audience I've seen totally adores Kidjo, who shows no hesitation to get down off a stage and boogie her way through a thicket of admirers with smartphone cameras, or to bring as many of them up on stage as can safely fit. If you missed her this year, don't do that again. Just don't do it. If  you do, both of us will be mighty mad at you.
(c)2013, Eva Yaa Asantewaa


Keep up with Angélique Kidjo here.
For more River to River summer fun, click here.

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