When Angelique Kidjo I was a calf, in the 70s, in Benin, His small West African country, salsa was a very popular musical genre, and he says it has not stopped being so. “There is no club in which they do not put sauce, and many greats of African music began playing it: Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, not to mention the African star of the genre, Laba Sosseh “, Kidjo explains by phone, ready to present, this tuesday at barts (Barcelona Jazz Festival), its leafy album ‘Celia’, a tribute to the Cuban Celia Cruz.
An album that claims the Africanity of this music of Antillean origin? “Yes, and more than that, because the history of salsa, with that rhythmic key brought by slaves from Africa, It is part of the history of humanity “, he explains with an enthusiastic verb, adding another ingredient:” Celia Cruz, like Miriam Makeba, it changed the mentality of women and it gave us strength to be what we wanted to be. “
The Yoruba nexus
In ‘Celia’, Kidjo has gone to the roots and has even rescued songs from the 50s and 60s, from when the Cuban singer was integrated into The Sonora Matancera. “There is no Celia Cruz without that period,” he defends. “There, in the Yoruba culture, in the orishas, is the beginning of history. It was important to integrate it to celebrate Africanity.” Topics that came to him despite not knowing the language, such as ‘Quimbara’, that Kidjo started singing as a teenager.
This piece brings back intense memories, as it had the opportunity to sing it with Celia Cruz herself. It was in Paris, at a concert by the Cuban diva, “at the end of the 90s”, and the duet was decided suddenly. “We were introduced to a hotel lobby and she was very welcoming: ‘My African sister, my black sister! ‘, he exclaimed in Spanish. I told her that I loved her song ‘Quimbara’, and surprisingly she invited me to sing it with her later. “
The inventor of afrobeat
To record ‘Celia’, Angélique Kidjo has had exquisite accomplices, such as drummer Tony Allen, “the founder of afrobeat”, she remembers. “I wanted to call him because I was sure that in his early days in music he must have played salsa, and he did. Watching him play is an experience from another world. It’s not that she plays the drums: she has a conversation with her. “One of the challenges was to incorporate metals that were up to the task.” You can’t compete with the Cubans in that, but in Benin we have a tradition of ‘marching bands’, with metals, so I said, ‘Let’s get them!’ They played in a very organic way, without forcing anything. “
‘Celia’ is the exuberant fruit of a universal Beninese committed to her country, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and activist in educational projects focused on the group that considers the most fragile and decisive, the girls. “Empowering them is the only way to reduce poverty in Africa.”
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Angélique Kidjo: “Celia Cruz changed the mentality of women”