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Angelique Kidjo’s Performance at the Arsht Center – Medicine for the soul.

by Rebekkah Mar

How can I describe my experience of watching Angelique Kidjo perform on May 31 at the Arsht Center Knight Concert Hall? This woman, who has won a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Music” in 2008, has been listed as one of Forbe’s top “40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa,” and has recently been featured on her own PBS special. Well, I can just say that her performance was stirring, inspirational, and redemptive.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but based on the audience’s whispers that permeated through the room, I knew that she had a strong and loyal fan base anticipating her arrival. The lights dimmed to nothing and then a single spotlight magnified the empty stage. Suddenly, one could hear her earthy alto voice resonate through the hall backstage. Her surprise entrance commenced the show as her fellow band members joined her on stage. The music was energetic, electrifying, and filled with spirit. Angelique Kidjo danced across the stage in regal African garb complete with headdress while singing her heart out to her own written work. The audience was fairly subdued and docile till an out of breath Angelique Kidjo stopped singing and stared at the audience. She grabbed the microphone and emphatically shouted, “You know the drill. If you want to dance, dance!” Slowly, one by one, audience members gained the courage to dance even if their entire row was seated.

I was inspired by Kidjo. She dedicated each song to a personal cause; from violence towards women to sexual abuse to education to universal unity. Each song had a meaning, a purpose. She didn’t sing just to sing, but she sung to convey morals, messages, and hope. “Look beyond what you see,” said an impassioned Kidjo to the audience. “Everyone is the agent of change.” Her words sung and unsung were equally powerful.  And through her courageous attitude and spirit, more and more of the audience started to dance.

During a transition to another song, she stopped and said that her music was a prayer for people to what they share in common and to celebrate it. “Celebrating goodness! All I want is spirit, have fun!” With that being said, she segued into a song featured on her first live album, “Spirit Rising” called “Afrika.” This song required audience interaction as Kidjo taught the audience the catchy and repetitive chorus, “Ah se mama, Ah se mama. Afrika.” The song vamped for several minutes, but no one was complaining. Angelique let the audience sing to their hearts’ content as she walked to the very last row of the concert hall determined to see everyone sing and have fun. Her voice blended in to the audience as the Knight concert hall transformed into one big Miami-style street party. Almost every person was dancing, even the timid shy ones like myself. It was hard not to stand. The audience members that were not moving were too busy recording the performance on IPADs, IPhones, and cameras.  The energy was contagious. People accompanied Kidjo on stage and danced till they were out of breath.

Watching everyone enjoy themselves, I noticed something unique about the crowd. It was very diverse, not only in cultures and race, but also in gender and age. Angelique Kidjo’s compelling voice inspired all. With her diverse band and traditional African music, and sassy attitude, it was hard not to embrace her haunting melodies and angular rhythms. Through her music, she conveyed her role in the empowerment of women and children in third world countries. She proved how music can not only affect a few, but a nation. She expressed her views on education, race, death, and overcoming hatred. Angelique Kidjo’s performance needed no fluff or exaggeration, as it was truly liberated and spirited. When her performance concluded, the audience begged for an encore. As she walked back on stage, the woman to my right said, “If music had the power to heal, then Angelique Kidjo’s music would be medicine for the soul.”

About Rebekkah Mar

A graduate from Westminster Christian School located in Dade County. Was the student writer for WCS online newsletter, “The Beat,” and assistant editor of the school’s yearbook, “The Beacon". Founder, editor-in-chief, and editorial writer for the newspaper, “The Warrior”. She has done internships at 90.9 Life FM Radio and Media Relations Group (MRG). Writes for St. Thomas Lutheran Church’s newsletter under the column, “Youth Perspective”. This year, she was the the recipient of The Burger King Scholarship, Westminster's Outstanding Senior Award, Westminster's Warrior Award for Leadership, and the De la Rua Family Endowment for Courage. She is also the nominee of the Emma Bowen Journalism Work study. Rebekkah is now studying Telecommunications within the College of Journalism at the University of Florida and is a staff member of UF's "Sparks Magazine."