If I Ruled the World: Angélique Kidjo

If I Ruled the World: Angélique Kidjo

BY Annie Dabb

15th Nov 2023 Life

2 min read

Five-time Grammy Award-winning African singer Angélique Kidjo imbues her multi-lingual and multi-genre music with Beninese culture on her most recent album Mother Nature and she’s also a passionate advocate for girls’ education and humanitarian aid. Here's what she would change, if she was in charge

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be respected

How can you view a society where there is not a framework for everyone to have equal opportunities? That is the base and the foundation of it. We have written it, nobody forced us to write that. We realised it was important to have that written somewhere and have it as a rule for everybody. If Article 1 was respected, we would be able to tackle inequality everywhere on the planet because it would be a blueprint for how we create society.
"If it was respected, we would be able to tackle inequality everywhere "
It demands a commitment from every citizen, all the way to the top of the power structure, but are we really willing to do it? We have never been able to. Even though we claim we are a free-speech country, championing equality and freedom, it clashes with the system that we’ve created. From that point on we’ve been having problems forever.

It would be a world without borders

Angélique Kidjo
I think from the moment that us as human beings left behind the nomadism, because we used to move from place to place, we were responsible for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our community. You could move from one country to another without going through anybody’s authority.
The minute we decided we were going to stick in one place and have a structured society, we started building walls around us. What is generously given to us by earth, we make it ours. We own it, and no one has the right to it. It creates tension and conflict, the First World War, the Second World War… and the world we are in today is always about what we have put at the centre of our system, the thing that is more important and more powerful than human life—money.

It would be easy to eat good food when you’re touring

The only food I can eat when I’m on tour is Thai food, because it’s fresh ingredients and freshly cooked. As a singer, what I put in my stomach is key for how I perform on stage. So, the food that never makes me sick is Thai food.
"I grew up in a country where food is a pleasure and you grow your own "
I grew up in a country where food was a pleasure because you grow your own food. When you go to the supermarket, the fish comes every morning, and you buy it. I had never eaten processed food until I came to Europe. Both of my grandmothers died at more than 100 years old because they ate healthily. You feel lighter when you eat good food.

Everyone would sing in tune

Angélique Kidjo
In my family nobody sings in tune but me. My sister always used to say, “if you want to sing, be ready to see the frogs falling from the sky”. People are so self-conscious, it’s the same with dancing. They say, “I don’t know how to dance”, I say “yes you can, you’re just not showing up. It’s not a show, just dance, move your body”.
As my mum would say, “your heart is beating, there’s a rhythm in you, you have a heartbeat, you’ll always be in time.” It’s the same with singing, we all have a different way of hearing music, you can sing off key, who cares, as long as you take pleasure in singing.

Everyone would understand the African lyrics of my songs

Because people are always asking me “Why do you sing in this language?”, because I speak so many different languages. But people can relate to my songs even if they don’t speak my language.
"Emotion is emotion—don’t focus on the African lyrics, focus on what the music is doing to you"
What is the language of emotion? Which language is it? Emotion is emotion. Don’t focus on the African lyrics, focus on what the music is doing to you while you’re listening to it.

Selling weapons would be a money-losing business

We have to do that, we owe ourselves that. We create weapons to defend ourselves from aggression. But when you start selling weapons just to make profit out of it, it becomes complicated. I remember the campaign of Amnesty International and Oxfam, to lobby against small weapons, to stop it. We have to trust them, because until all of those militias had access to guns, raping women was not as possible because the woman can run away. If you can’t catch her, she can run away. But if you can shoot at her, she has no place to hide.
Why own a gun? For me, that’s the question I always ask. Why have a gun at home when you have kids in the house? If you have a gun in your home, it means the country that you’re living in is at war. If your country is not at war, you don’t have anything to do with guns. What are we afraid of? One another?

It would be compulsory to eat crab gumbo with smoked fish once a week

Angélique Kidjo
I love it. My husband hates it, and I love it. I cook it with smoked fish, crab and with okra as well. The way we cook it in Africa, it’s sticky, and you have to eat it and turn it. It’s not fried like Europeans do. The recipe is delicious. I would want everyone to make it the way I make it. The recipe is in my book, Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music.
That’s it. Food, music, human rights. Everything else comes after. Life is beautiful. People have to live fully as if it was the last time on Earth every day. Put music at the centre of it, and you will have a beautiful life. Your brain will always be happy as long as you listen to music… and come to my shows!
Angélique Kidjo will be performing at London’s Royal Albert Hall in London on November 17.
Banner photo: Angélique Kidjo (Fabrice Mabillot)

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