Want to share all of takin' a walk ? Check out the embeddable playlist.
Buzz Knight [00:00:01] I’m Buzz Knight, the host of Taking a Walk Music History on Foot. On this episode, we have an artist that oozes joy with your music, her sincerity and her activism. She’s a five time Grammy Award winner. Her work includes amazing collaborations with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Carlos Santana, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Dave MATTHEWS, among others. She’s been named Woman of the Year by Forbes magazine. She’s been called one of the most inspiring women in the world. Her name is Angelique Kidjo, the new Afropop series from American Public Television about the queen Kidjo. And we welcome her to Taking a Walk, next. Hi.
Angelique Kidjo [00:00:58] Hello.
Buzz Knight [00:00:59] How are you? I’m excellent. I’m speaking to you.
Angelique Kidjo [00:01:03] Yes.
Buzz Knight [00:01:06] And I would like to congratulate you on the triumphant release of the Afropop series. And welcome to Taking a Walk.
Angelique Kidjo [00:01:19] Thanks for having me.
Buzz Knight [00:01:21] You are extremely humble. How does it feel being celebrated via this special series?
Angelique Kidjo [00:01:29] Well, it’s kind of it’s kind of a humbling experience because I don’t want to take credit for for the career that I have without being tribute and thinking my parents for allowing me to go to school and to have a career at the same time. And that has been the thing that defines my commitment to do the best I can, whatever I do, and also the passion of the director of the movie. She has such a big passion for for the story of my life and dedicates so much time to it. And I can’t thank you enough for trying to do the best she can. Also, to make the story, I mean, is so complicated and it’s it’s it’s just a story that is still ongoing on because I’m still alive and and I hope I could do more with my work to empower more people in the world and and try to create a world in which it’s easier to leave all of us together.
Buzz Knight [00:02:33] I understand you continue to travel the world and, you know, once you arrive into a new spot or a familiar place, you get to your hotel and get yourself situated at that point. What is it you do right after that?
Angelique Kidjo [00:02:55] I go to the city. I walk. I walk to see the people. How how they live in their life. And to also discover new places. You can discover new places. Sitting in your hotel room. And when you’re touring musician, that’s just. That’s what you do because you’re so tired that you don’t have the energy to to, to, to discover. And if I sit too long in one place, I just my brain need to function. So when I check into my hotel, I’ll settle in my room and then I go around and walk and walk and see what people eat. And I’ll eat local food or I will talk to people. Sometimes I walk into a store and look at me, say, Are you going to sing? And then I start talking to people, start knowing people and invite them to the concert. It’s important for me to to reconnect with humanity when I get on a plane after hours and hours and to see real people that live in the city, that I’m on a plane. And before I leave.
Buzz Knight [00:03:59] What are some of your favorite places that you’ve recently taken? A walk?
Angelique Kidjo [00:04:03] All of them. I started in the southern part of France this time around, and I the everywhere I go, I was in I was in Hamburg for a week at the beginning of the month of March. I was the curator of the season 2023, 2024, inaccurate ten concerts. So it’s a lot of work. And the first two days I was free, so I would go. I would just like go to the city, walk and drink all the water or buy juice or I mean, just just walk to the train station or so it was like 15 minute walk from my hotel across the river. I just need to see people. I just need to talk to people and also practice my German, because that’s 30 German for five years. And to see how my brain is functioning when it comes to speak in different languages.
Buzz Knight [00:04:58] Activism is. Is so vital to your mission. Women’s rights, Climate equality. Who was the first person that influenced you and exposed you to activism?
Angelique Kidjo [00:05:13] My mom and dad. My mum. When I was eight years old, she had the group of people we know of women in Mothers in when I was in the sixties. And we every weekend go walk and take me with them to sing songs in which they are asking for women’s rights to decide who they are, for how they use the body, the right to vote, that women are not just are not things in possession. We are human being. We want our right to be respected. I mean, I was singing this stuff. I was eight years old. I did not even realize the importance of it. And in the sixties. Eight years old. And here I am, almost 63. And with you talking about women’s right in, my question is, what is wrong with men? What thread we pose to men that we we we have to ask for something that is due to us. We have the right to live in a world where we are not just accessory. We are not just as mothers. We cannot just be defined by being mothers. We need to have a career. Even if your mother’s y having a child or children has to be a punishment. So for me, with my father being such a feminist, that allowed my mom. My mom had ten kids. I mean, we are we are ten children. She has 14 pregnancy. And my father never stopped her for doing anything she wants to do because she’s my partner. She’s my better half. I can’t speak on her behalf. She has to be independent and free for me to be able to know that I am dealing with a human being. She’s not my thing. So that’s what I learned from my father. So I don’t understand. We into 21st century this talking about women’s rights and that doesn’t bother men to said to just take it that well, they have the right and nothing matter. You can’t tell me you love your mother enough thinking that your mother have the right to be independent. Do be seen as a human being. Otherwise, how do you see yourself?
Buzz Knight [00:07:19] You know, activism and and music were so key in the 1960s in the US, as you know. Are you surprised of the lack of activism today from from many musicians?
Angelique Kidjo [00:07:35] Oh yeah, I am not surprised. But if done differently today, I would say. In the sixties it was it was also the Vietnam War. There are many issues but then need to be sung. But people still do it because if you listen to the lyrics of songs, you and I pay attention to it. There are a lot of women and men that are talking about issues that matter to us the most. We need to listen and act up on it. I think that music is an universal language that allowed us to tell a compelling story of our human, our shared humanity. And if we don’t, we listen. But we don’t hear. If we don’t hear it all the days when we to realize we’ve been given the opportunity to do something and we didn’t do it, it’s going to be too late for me. Silence is a weapon. Also, it is the way we use sat in silence can be a positive thing or it can be a deadly weapon. And we can’t just say we don’t know all this. We can do nothing about it. Let us not be lazy when it comes to the rights of people and let us not politicize people’s right. Let it would be who they want to be. And otherwise, we we just we just making people suffer for no reason. And it doesn’t profit the one people that I was it all the attention on other people’s right because at the end of the day, if you want to take that freedom, it means that your freedom means nothing to you.
Buzz Knight [00:09:06] Are there ever points that you lose, lose hope?
Angelique Kidjo [00:09:10] Hope is stronger than fear. And I don’t live in fear is one thing I learned from my father. My father said fear is a jail cell you built for yourself. You don’t remember where you put the key because it’s too late for you to come back because you haven’t put yourself in such a deep hole of hate. Hatred has nothing positive about it, because the question that I always ask myself is that why hate if you hit somebody is because you hate yourself? Why do you hate yourself? What are the problems of your life that you didn’t have the courage to face? Why your life is miserable as your fabulous question is, start working backward and find a solution to live a life where you’re not angry or when you where you are not hating on people that do nothing to you because they don’t bring you joy, no closure because that you you have to always to feed the heat, the heat and the anger. It takes so much energy. I don’t have it in me. Not one day I wake up thinking something’s going to happen to somebody. I don’t have that time. I know I was not raised like that and I don’t see people of color. And I will never judge people and generalize and put people in the same bucket. You can’t do that. We are unique. We are one. Humanity get unique and special. We all have something to bring to the table in this world we live in. And when you think like that, you can’t just go around hating people because of their skin color, because of this, because of that. You just have to love yourself and accept the fact that the world we live in is diverse. Our I mean, look at the landscape in America. The southern landscape is different from the east side. I mean, America is a continent itself. You can you can travel from one place to the other in America and been totally different landscapes. The Amistad is amazing in actual America, and I’ve seen it. I’m like, Wow, what a country is to make us humble and realize who we are and what we are.
Buzz Knight [00:11:21] You know, some of your earliest influences. I’d like to have you talk about James Brown, Otis Redding.
Angelique Kidjo [00:11:30] Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, all of those Yeah. Men James Brown bring brought the funk into my life. I mean, James Brown is the first artist that I heard in singing in English. I’m like, I have to learn this language because it becomes a rhythm. It becomes a dance. And I love this and I love rhythm. And then I start listening to the American music for the length of of James Brown music, R&B, all of it. There’s an artist that comes that’s called James Brown that put all of those things in funk. Man, this is so cool, man. I’m like, Whoa, this is fun. And I, I was lucky enough to be raised in a household where my parents have opened their home to every single human being on this planet in music, music, sport, art, reading, books. I mean, it’s an amazing home I grew up in and I took it for granted. Well, no one would be thinking that it was the norm everywhere in my father. Was it read books? Just read. They had been to the camp before and have an experience that we have to share in by reading, book and learning. More and more, you find out who you are and what this world is about. We have to learn from the past.
Buzz Knight [00:12:51] I saw this amazing photo of you on stage at a performance with Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, David and Ray Davis, The Kinks. Do you remember that moment?
Angelique Kidjo [00:13:06] Oh, yeah. It was a Carnegie Hall, and we had fun. It was for the Tibet House concert that Philip Glass produced every year. And I mean, Patti Smith, all of them we just finished the show like in its flamboyant is joyful then for me it’s it’s just the music that make it worth it for us to be all on one stage, singing in one voice the song of one of us. And and in that communion moment, there’s just humanity, nothing else, no color, no language, no nothing.
Buzz Knight [00:13:50] And then you’re, I think, the only person I’ve ever spoken to who could actually say that they cut the rug on the dance floor with Barack Obama.
Angelique Kidjo [00:14:06] Well, he asked me, he said, Steve, how low can you get? I think there’s Gordon. Mr. President, let’s do it. Surprise him all the way to the round and his to the challenge. He did it. I love the face of me. It was the face of Michelle that cracked me up here that I’m not going down there with. You know it.
Buzz Knight [00:14:36] What are you listening musically these days? That’s new that you might expose us to?
Angelique Kidjo [00:14:44] Well, I’ve been listening to the new album of Davido, the singer from Nigeria. We did a song together called Money, and it is just like You’re killing it right now. And ABC, listen to also two Arvo Part music and many different musicians from around the world. So because we’ve Arvo Part in and Chris Blackwell and myself, we just wanted to pull up music press and we’re going to be celebrating together in in May in Stockholm. So I’ve been really visiting different music. And I love I love to listen to everything from classical music all the way to traditional music from my country.
Buzz Knight [00:15:32] Well, lastly, can you in a nutshell, explain to us the power of music and what it means to you?
Angelique Kidjo [00:15:40] The power of music is is something that bring us together. Wherever I’ve been in the world and I walk on stage. I have the world at my feet. People come from different walks of life, and I think in language most of them do understand. Yet it unite us and strengthen us to look at each other and to see each other as human beings. The power of music. Hills Music keeps you young. Keep your brain young for a long time. Longer time than anybody else. And it’s amazing to see. People at you, at your concert, smiling, cheering. It makes you humble.
Buzz Knight [00:16:30] You are an inspiring treasure. And I’m grateful that you were on our Taken a Walk. And congrats on the new release of the Afropop series. Thank you so much, Angelique.
Angelique Kidjo [00:16:43] Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Buzz Knight [00:16:46] Thanks for listening to Taking a Walk. Music History on Foot. Find us at Apple Podcasts, Spotify. Tune in iHeart, Castbox or wherever you get your podcast and kindly leave us a review and share it with a friend. This episode and all taking a walk episodes are produced by Bob Malatesta. Thanks for listening both State.