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  • Singer and activist Angelique Kidjo performs in Spain.

    Singer and activist Angelique Kidjo performs in Spain. | Photo: EFE

Published 20 April 2019

By merging both their genres, Kidjo aims to remind her audience of the consistent popularity salsa music maintained across Africa.

Noted singer Angelique Kidjo has released a new album entitled Celia, which pays tribute to the Afro-Cuban music icon Celia Cruz and incorporates Afrobeat stylings to showcase both women's African roots. 

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Celia Cruz's music maintained an African influence throughout her career, that lasted half of a century. The Latin American singer's own music had also commemorated Yoruban deities that are highly celebrated by Afro-Cubans. By merging both their genres, Kidjo aims to remind her audience of the consistent popularity salsa music maintained across Africa. 

Kidjo acknowledges that a certain risk accompanies taking on the music of the widely respected icon, considering she is a huge fan herself.

Regardless, any fear to blaspheme the Queen of Salsa was outweighed by Kidjo's devotion to releasing the Celia Cruz-inspired set. The catalog of Cruz does not deserve a simple album of covers, but what Kidjo brings, which is a complete artistic reinterpretation.

The album features several artists from Kidjo's home-continent, including prominent Afrobeat percussionist Tony Allen and the African Gangbe Brass Band. The sound of the tracks differs from the original, by showcasing guitar and percussion in place of a boisterous brass section. 

Kidjo is widely known for incorporating Afrobeat rhythms with the music of her favorite artists, including Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, and most recently, the Talking Heads. 

Born in Benin, Kidjo has a career that is centered on activism and dedication to the women of the African continent. The singer-activist often speaks of Africa's influence on all music.

"No matter what kind of music I touch, the only way I can do it - I can make sense of it - is if I come back to my roots. Music connects us directly back to Africa."

Kidjo is also unreservedly outspoken about the influence of economics and power, and how they contribute to the negative narrative surrounding the increasing amount of African migrants seeking refuge. Through music, she aims to "include everybody's talents and everybody's difference." 

In 2007, Kidjo founded Batonga, a non-profit that focuses on African women who have been excluded from society, and mentors them in order to "tap into their capacity to be independent and powerful agents of positive change, in their own lives and in their communities."

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