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Angelique Kidjo Returns to The Sydney Opera House

Music Scene Media
Mar 8, 2024
6 min read

On Wednesday night I found myself at the Sydney Opera House, but it wasn't your average night at the opera—it was an Angelique Kidjo concert, and let me tell you, it was nothing short of amazing. If you are not an Angelique Kidjo fan, do yourself a favour and head to one of her shows when you can. I guarantee you will change your mind.  The stage setup was simple, stripped back to just the essentials, with the lighting creating this unexpectedly intimate vibe, reminiscent of a live theater performance. The crowd was definitely a more mature audience featuring a diverse mix of people, all there for the same reason: to soak in the magic that is Kidjo.

Before diving into the heart of the evening, let's pause to appreciate the force of nature that is Angelique Kidjo. With a career spanning over four decades, the Beninese-French powerhouse, a five-time Grammy Award winner, is not just a singer; she's a global music icon and a beacon of African music and culture on the world stage. Her accolades are not just a testament to her musical prowess but also to her influence and ability to bridge diverse cultures through her music. Time Magazine hailed her as "Africa's premier diva," and The Guardian lists her among the Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Kidjo's music, an electrifying blend of the West African traditions of her childhood with elements of American R&B, funk, jazz, and influences from Europe and Latin America, has captivated audiences worldwide, making her one of the greatest artists in international music today.

Right from the start, Kidjo set the tone for the evening—stepping onto the stage with an undeniable vibrance. With her powerful vocals making its way around the hall, and dancing with a vigor that defied the minimalist stage setup, she was a whirlwind of movement, her band matching her intensity note for note. It was clear we were in for one heck of a show.

Amid the high-energy performance, Kidjo took a moment to share a poignant story from her childhood, one that traced back to the first time she saw Celia Cruz perform. It was a tale of inspiration, revealing how Cruz, the Queen of Salsa, ignited a flame in a young Kidjo, teaching her that her gender shouldn't define her limits. In a week dedicated to celebrating women worldwide, Kidjo's message couldn't have been more timely or impactful. She urged all women in the audience to pursue their dreams without limitations, making the evening resonate with an even deeper significance.

The concert was a journey through Kidjo's vast discography, a celebration that included hits like "Agolo," “Mother Nature,” and "Meant for Me," which had us all singing along. Each song was a reminder of her incredible talent and the universal appeal of her music. During her time on stage she also paid tribute to some of the greats including a rendition of “Bemba Colora” by Cuban “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz, and “Pata Pata” by the great Miriam Makeba, another one of Kidjo’s role models. The energy in the room was infectious, culminating in mini dance parties breaking out in different corners of the auditorium. Everyone letting go of their worries and dancing the night away.

Hearing "Agolo" live was like being transported back to childhood mornings in Nigeria—proof that some tunes just have the power to anchor you to moments and memories. And Kidjo? She was more than just a performer; she was the coolest host, making everyone feel right at home with her vibrant stories and infectious laughter. She had this incredible way of pulling everyone into the moment, and making it feel like we were all hanging out in someone's living room, just vibing to her music and stories. It was like each song wasn't just a performance but a conversation, one where we all felt connected.

Kidjo’s between-song banter wasn’t just filler; it packed a punch, touching on everything from the absurdity of hate to the power of unity. As she beautifully put it, “the beauty of our human family is the diversity of it”.

Let's talk about her performance. Kidjo's voice is a force, clear and powerful, perfectly complemented by her band's arrangements. It was a masterclass in how live music can be a full-on experience—part concert, part communal uplift. Her stage presence was unmatched; she completely owned the space, making every attendee feel like a part of the night, not just a spectator.

The night was a vivid reminder of the beauty of music and its ability to bring people together. Kidjo’s performance was a window into a world where differences fade away in the face of rhythm and melodies. For a few hours, the Sydney Opera House became a microcosm of what the world could be—a place of unity, celebration, and mutual respect.

As the final notes of the evening's performance seemed to signal the end, the Opera House came alive with a thunderous standing ovation. In response, Kidjo returned to the stage for an encore that was specifically targeted to early followers of her music, offering a medley of "We We," "Batonga," and "Adouma" before closing the unforgettable night with "Flying High." It was a perfect culmination of an evening that celebrated not just her music but the collective spirit and joy it brings.

I must say, I was quite disappointed that she did not bless the crowd with a rendition of the Disney hit song “We are One”, but walking away from the concert, I felt more than just the afterglow of great music. I was inspired, rejuvenated by the vision of a world Kidjo painted with her songs and stories. She’s not just a musical icon; she's a beacon of hope and unity. If we could all carry a bit of the spirit from that night into our daily lives, imagine the kind of world we could create.

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