It’s sunny in Brooklyn, so Angélique Kidjo is in good spirits on this June morning. She sat down at her computer, humming “Tutti frutti, aw rooty,” Little Richard’s famous refrain. “I’m carried away by his energy,” she says, with a smile that will never leave her for long during the videoconference interview.
Spruce, authentic, generous, Angélique Kidjo has always distinguished herself by her energy, too. We can easily guess that this is the kind of person who does not stay in place. “I could spend my life on tour and that would be fine with me,” confirms the Beninese diva, who will perform the opening concert of the Festival international Nuits d’Afrique on Wednesday at the MTelus.
“Every time I come [to Montreal], I have fun, I eat well and I am in good hands. I feel at home, what, she says. And Nuits d’Afrique is, I think, a reminder that all music comes from Africa. We have to realize that. I listen to Little Richard and it’s all there: he comes from the blues and the blues comes from Africa. »
Bringing to light the sprawling influence of African rhythms and music has been Angélique Kidjo’s mission for many years. A quest that was embodied in particular by her trilogy composed of the albums Orémie, Black Ivory Soul and Oyaya!, where she mixed her African roots respectively with black American music, that of Brazil and the Caribbean.
His curiosity is clearly displayed throughout his discography. She sang with dozens of other artists, including Nigerian star Yemi Alade (also on Nuits d’Afrique, July 19), Tina Turner and Frenchman Christophe Maé, covered as much Hendrix as the Talking Heads, reinvented the standard Summertime and even Ravel’s Boléro. Angélique Kidjo does not snub anything or anyone.
“I grew up surrounded by music from all over the world. So when I got into doing it, I wondered how I could give back some of what I’d received and nurtured my art,” she says, explaining the consistency of collaborations throughout. of her career.
Angélique Kidjo, who has just received the Polar prize for all of her work and her social commitment (she notably supports education and entrepreneurship programs for women), had already made a name for herself in Benin when she flew to France in the early 1980s. She knew she would have to start over at the bottom, but was surprised by the gap between the two countries.
Although she found herself in Paris along with people like Salif Keita and Manu Dibango, at a time when the French capital was becoming the epicenter of what was then called “world music”, the ears of the Beninese singer turned instead to French-speaking culture. “I discovered Jacques Higelin, Bashung, Plamondon, Maxime Le Forestier, she lists. I was kind of a music junkie. I listened to everything I didn’t know. »
This period has nourished her enormously. “It also made me realize that music is the only art form that can speak to people from all walks of life and can address all topics, all themes, without violence,” he adds. -She.
Angélique Kidjo has spent part of her life in Brooklyn, New York, for many years. What does the United States bring him? A freedom that she did not spontaneously feel in France. “I don’t have a colonial history with the United States. I immediately felt that I was no longer the African on duty, she explains. The dynamic was immediately completely different, because I no longer had to justify anything in relation to my identity.
“I moved here because I no longer had to justify my musical desires, I could work with directors from various backgrounds who were curious to understand my approach,” she explains. And you can hear it: since living in Brooklyn, her music, which already ignored borders, embraces the planet with even more generosity. With the same contagious energy that she appreciates in Little Richard.
There is rarely music from the Comoros, an archipelago located between Madagascar and northern Mozambique, at Nuits d’Afrique. The Eliasse trio make “zangoma” rock, which, to Western ears, sounds like bluesy rock carried by rhythms that often have nothing binary about them.
Inspired by the bossa-nova and samba of her native Brazil, Bianca Rocha creates a Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB) with jazzy accents. Her delicate singing, in Portuguese and sometimes in French, floats on soft but dancing guitars and inventive basses. Bianca Rocha will receive a special guest, Flavia Nascimento, who lives in Quebec.
Bamako, the first album by Canadian-Hungarian Sophie Lukacs, is a curious mix: the singing is folk, but instead of the guitar, it’s above all the kora, an instrument that she notably studied with Toumani Diabaté, that we hear. An intriguing marriage of traditions.