Monday saw another Grammy award go to one of Africa’s most prominent musician from Benin, Angelique Kidjo; an award she dedicated to aspiring artists on the continent.
Kidjo 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, which won her the third Grammy, merges African songwriting and rhythms with European classical instrumentation, a fusion on which Kidjo has repeatedly experimented.
She described the album as an artistic challenge since traditional African bands follow the lead of the soloist much more closely unlike Western orchestras that generally play off refined scores.
“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,” said Kidjo after accepting the award.
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.
“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.”
“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.