Kidjo says ‘Africa on rise’ in latest Grammy win

Angelique Kidjo poses with her Best World Music Album trophy for "Sings" in the press room during the 58th Annual Grammy Music Awards in Los Angeles on February 15, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON
Angelique Kidjo poses with her Best World Music Album trophy for “Sings” in the press room during the 58th Annual Grammy Music Awards in Los Angeles on February 15, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON / AFP / MARK RALSTON

Angelique Kidjo, one of Africa’s most prominent musicians, won her third Grammy on Monday and dedicated it to aspiring artists on the continent.

The Beninese-born singer won the Grammy for Best World Music Album for “Sings,” a collection of her songs infused with Western classical traditions in a collaboration with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

This is the second straight year that Kidjo has won the Best World Music Album prize, after last year’s “Eve” that paid tribute to African women.

A visibly happy Kidjo, dressed in a colorful African dress, ran to the stage to accept the award and danced to James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” performed by a pit orchestra.

“I want to dedicate this Grammy to all the traditional musicians in Africa, in my country, to all the young generation,” Kidjo said.

“Africa is on the rise, Africa is positive, Africa is joyful,” she said.

“Let’s get together and be one with music, and say no to hate and violence,” she said to applause.

The album merges African songwriting and rhythms with European classical instrumentation, a fusion on which Kidjo has repeatedly experimented.

Kidjo described the album as an artistic challenge as traditional African bands follow the lead of the soloist much more closely, unlike Western orchestras that generally play off refined scores.

Kidjo, who is based in New York and plans another concert at Carnegie Hall in the upcoming season, said she was open to further work with artists of other genres.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Singer Angelique Kidjo accepts the award for Best World Music Album for "Sings" onstage during the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast at The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Microsoft Theater on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 15: Singer Angelique Kidjo accepts the award for Best World Music Album for “Sings” onstage during the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast at The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Microsoft Theater on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP

“I work with everyone who believes that music is the tool of peace. For me, music is the only form of art that connects the entire world,” she told AFP after accepting the award.

– ‘Open-minded’ awards –
Kidjo has long worked with Philip Glass, one of the leading living US composers.

Glass notably worked with Kidjo on music set to three poems from Yoruba mythology.

Collaborators on “Sings” include not only classical musicians but the bassist Christian McBride, who separately won his latest Grammy on Monday in the category of Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Kidjo hailed the Grammys as being increasingly open-minded.

“What astounds me more and more is the openness of spirit by the Grammys compared with other events,” she told AFP.

“They are showing musical diversity to the rest of the world,” she said. “What is great at the Grammys is to have people who aren’t only into commercial things.”

The artist with the most nominations at Monday’s Grammys is Kendrick Lamar, whose album “To Pimp a Butterfly” has been hailed for its meditative look on the state of black America.

“Sings” beat out a highly innovative Grammy nominee from Africa — an album by Malawi’s Zomba Prison Project.

The 20-track album, arranged by the US producer Ian Brennan, explored the unexpected musical talents of prisoners at a maximum-security prison.

“I am a reformed person, and music has helped me to be cool and deal with the situation of being incarcerated for life,” Elias Chimenya, who is serving a life term for killing a man in a quarrel, told AFP earlier in Malawi.

The three others in contention for the World Music Grammy were all previous nominees — sitarist Anoushka Shankar, Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil and South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

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