By Alex Balimwikungu
For a Unicef goodwill ambassador, her visit to Uganda this week was low profile. Even as the celebrated musician danced and sang in internally displaced personâ€™s camps, schools, clinics and homesteads in Lira district, very few had a clue a Grammy Award nominee was in their midst.
Angelique Kidjo, 46, Beninâ€™s biggest music export, is the latest of celebrities to grace this country on humanitarian missions. She was on a tour of Unicef-funded projects.
It is only unfair we never got to enjoy her vast musical talent even though she promised to be back.
Following in the footsteps of internationally famous artistes such as Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango, Youssou Nâ€™Dour and Mory KantÃ©, AngÃ©lique Kidjo is the latest star to have emerged from the hotbed of musical talent in Africa. She has taken the world music scene by storm.
Agolo and Wombolombo, her mid 90â€™s hits are what many Ugandans may recall, owing to the fair airplay the songs received on local Fm stations.
The star, born on July 14, 1960 is much bigger than her petite body suggests.
How about this for talent; at six years, Kidjo was performing with her motherâ€™s Theatre Troupe. Her mother, Yvonne Kidjo, was a renowned choreographer and theatre director, which enabled Angelique to get an early appreciation for music and dance.
Because she accompanied her motherâ€™s troupe on all tours, at her ninth birthday, she had already established an excellent reputation. By the time she reached her teens, Kidjo was already a star in her local region. In 1979, she formed her own group Lycee. At 20, she flew to Paris, starting off as a backup singer in local bands.
It was not long before Kidjo, inspired by Parisâ€™ thriving Afro-Caribbean music scene, went on to to establish herself as a major artiste in her own right. She then married her musician and producer Jean Hebrail.
Kidjo is fluent in her native Fon, French, Yoruba and English and sings in all four languages. She gave Kiswahili a shot when she sung Malaika.
Her musical influences include the Afropop, Carribean zouk, Congolese rumba, Jazz, Gospel and Latin styles.
Kidjo also recorded a song on the sound track of hollywoodâ€™s Jim Carrey movie, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
She has since scooped the best African female artiste Kora Awards (1995), Mobo Awards ( 2002) and Grammy nominations for Best Music Video (1995) and Best World Music Album (1999 and 2003).
In the course of her successful career, AngÃ©lique Kidjo has spread her rhythmic Afro-funk fusion to the four corners of the globe and become almost as famous as her childhood idols, Miriam Makeba and Aretha Franklin.
With her fun-loving personality, her on-stage charisma and her unique voice, she is certainly one of the most popular artistes on the world music scene.