NEW YORK, 25 July 2002 - Calling her one of the most creative and forward thinkers in the music world, UNICEF today announced the appointment of West African star singer Angélique Kidjo as a UNICEF Special Representative. Ms. Kidjo joins a respected and storied roster of international figures who have helped UNICEF advocate on behalf of children.
"Ms. Kidjo's global popularity and personal commitment to children will make a big difference for UNICEF and for children everywhere," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "Her focus on the importance of education is especially welcome. It will help us get all girls and boys in school, help them stay there, and help us ensure that all children learn what they need to succeed. She is a great addition to the UNICEF family and we warmly welcome her."
Angélique Kidjo has earned a powerful reputation on the world stage. While she has steeped her melodies in the tribal and pop rhythms of her West African heritage, Kidjo has crossed musical and national boundaries by blending a variety of styles, including funk, salsa, jazz, rumba, souk and makossa.
As an artist Ms. Kidjo has always tackled serious social issues, but her chief commitment is to education. "For me education is so crucial because everything goes with it, like healthy politics and development," she said. "Young people are the hope of my continent. When I watch the children of Africa, all dreams seem possible," Ms. Kidjo added. She also noted that education is crucial to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. "One day, education and good health will allow my continent to rise. I'm sure of this," she said.
Ms. Kidjo's lyrics have touched on such topics as race, environment, homelessness and the need to integrate. She has worked hard at communicating strong messages about the HIV/AIDS emergency to young people in West Africa and in 1996 she was invited to perform at the Peace Nobel Prize Ceremony.
UNICEF has become renowned for the distinguished array of personalities it has attracted to support its mission, starting with American entertainer Danny Kaye in the 1950s. Today UNICEF works with 17 international stars and more than 100 national and regional ambassadors.
Angélique Kidjo was born in Benín and began her singing career at age 6. She moved to Paris due to the unstable political situation in her country. While in Paris, she attended law school while also studying jazz. At the jazz school she met her future husband, Jean Hébrail, who collaborates with her. They now live in New York and Paris with their daughter.
Ms. Kidjo speaks and sings in several languages, including Fon, Yoruba, Mina, French, and English. She has seven albums, the latest being Black Ivory Soul, which focuses on the Brazilian connection with West Africa, specifically with Bahia and Bénin. The song "Tumba" (the name for congas in Benín) describes coming together for dancing and clapping. "Ominira" (which means freedom in Yoruba) is a song about how all people deserve freedom regardless of class or race. And "Afirika" is a festive call for Africans to take the lead in making change on the continent.
Though she once considered being a human right lawyer, Ms. Kidjo thinks that she can have a greater impact through her music. "I believe music is a language beyond colour of skin, country or culture," said Ms. Kidjo. " I want to inspire people to get to work to help educate, nourish and protect our children - they are our chance to get it right."
Note to Editors:
Ms. Kidjo will appear in concert in New York City on Wednesday July 31 at Nelson Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City. The free concert begins at 7pm.
Information can be obtained at (212) 528-2733.
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