The BBC dubs Angelique Kidjo “Queen Of African Music” after her CELIA performance at the Royal Albert Hall
You don’t often see the Albert Hall on its feet jumping like this and rarely in the BBC Proms.
From the arena and stalls around the stage to the gallery at the top everyone was dancing. And the cause of all this was the petite but power-packed Angélique Kidjo twirling, pacing and hollering on stage. Kidjo , born in Benin, but long time resident in New York, is one of the great voices of Africa. Flamboyantly dressed in a flowery carnival gown, she was nominally celebrating the music of salsa star Celia Cruz.
But Kidjo is not just a singer but an activist animating what she does on stage.
“I thought salsa was just a male music because every band was made of guys, but then came Celia Cruz,” she said. “I realised that having success has no gender and we women can do anything we want.”
Her performance started with a santeria homage to Yemaya, the Afro-Cuban goddess of the sea, led by excellent Senegalese percussionist Magatte Sow. Kidjo was also backed by a punchy horn section of sax, trumpet and trombone. Joining as a guest artist was leading Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, who toured with Buena Vista Social Club for several years. While dance music was to the fore, there were moments when Kidjo’s magnificent voice could really soar, notably on Sahara, a tribute to the African roots of salsa.