The Grammy-winning singer talks about Ebola, terrorism and challenging negative media perceptions about Africa.
From Al Jazerra
Singer Angelique Kidjo is a symbol of Africa’s creativity, energy and beauty. Her music is a unique blend of her own very West African heritage combined with funk, jazz and Latin music, and much more.
From the small country of Benin, she has won awards and recognition around the world. But Kidjo is also a champion of African causes.
Through her work with the United Nations and her own foundation, she has travelled across the continent, raising money at times of disaster. But above all else, she has campaigned for the right of more girls to go to school.
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And with Africa facing new challenges – from Ebola to extremists opposed to girls’ education – she is vocal in her criticism of Western depictions of the continent.
“Do you think everybody in Africa has Ebola?” she asks on Talk to Al Jazeera. “We didn’t invent Ebola. It’s just a disease that exists there. Like, are we going to be blamed for inventing malaria too? If there is an Ebola outbreak in the Western world, will the media in the West treat it the same way?”
She also expressed her frustration with the way Western media portray Africa as a continent steeped in violence, victimhood and corruption.
“A success story in Africa doesn’t interest any media,” she says. “They are so eager and hungry for horrible stories from Africa. Why? It looks like the West is the hyena, feeding on the misery of the African people. They should be ashamed doing this.”
On the topic of terrorism, she is crushing in her criticism of ISIS but urges an analysis of why young people are joining the group.
“Everybody wants to fight ISIS. Why can’t we just do something better for people and remove the legitimacy of all those crazy extremists that are there just for the pleasure of killing people and for power?” she asks.
Now in her mid-50’s, Kidjo has just written her life story, Spirit Rising, and released a new album, Eve. She is still recording and touring at a hectic pace, but where does she see her musical career going from here? And with all the challenges facing Africa, does she feel optimistic about the future of her beloved continent?