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Eve(s) by Angélique Kidjo

Manchester International Festival 21: Postcards from Now


Published: 10 Nov 2021

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By Angélique Kidjo (Benin)

Manchester International Festival 2021: Postcards from Now

Singapore premiere, 10 Nov 2021, 8pm (GMT+8)

Benin is rooted in a patriarchal culture, with households headed by men yet run by women. But in moments of crisis, whether in private homes or wider communities, it’s women who come to the fore – as musician and activist Angélique Kidjo demonstrates in this potent portrait of her home country and the women who inhabit it.

During her last trip to Benin, pre-COVID, Kidjo was accompanied by a professional videographer who recorded hundreds of hours of footage, interviewing and documenting the lives of women and girls around the country. Traditionally Benin is a patriarchal culture where households are headed by men but run by women; in moments of crisis, it is the women who come to the fore, utilising their domestic skills for the sake of the community. This was epitomised early in the pandemic when a cottage industry of mask-making was swiftly developed by women needing new ways to feed their families.

 Working with Yasmina Jaafri as film editor to shape her existing footage, Kidjo aims to give these women their stories back, put their voices front and centre and show the real women of Benin. The resulting film will be an artistic piece showcasing Kidjo’s talent as a political artist.

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Théâtre du Châtelet, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay and Sadler’s Wells.

Series produced by Manchester International Festival.

In the spring of 2020, while I was confined in my home in Paris, I started to reflect on my many travels throughout the years. In my dreams, I kept coming back to this special journey I took in 2013 across my country Benin for the recording of my album EVE.

I was exploring my musical heritage and everywhere I went I encountered extraordinary, beautiful and brave women at the centre of their communities. In 2021, at a time of deep crisis, it is these women who give me hope for the future.

Angélique Kidjo

About the artist

Four-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today, a creative force with thirteen albums to her name.

Time Magazine has called her "Africa's premier diva". The BBC has included her in its list of the continent's 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011, The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angelique as the first woman in their list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, and the 2018 German Sustainability Award.

As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America. After exploring the roads of Africa's diaspora—through Brazil, Cuba and The United States—and offering a refreshing and electrifying take on the Talking Heads album Remain In Light (called “Transformative” by the New York Times, “Visionary” by NPR Music, “Stunning” by Rolling Stone, and “one of the year’s most vibrant albums” by the Washington Post), the French-Beninese singer is now reflecting on an icon of the Americas, celebrated salsa singer Celia Cruz. Kidjo’s album Celia (April 19 - Verve/Universal Music France) divests itself of the glamour to investigate the African roots of the Cuban-born woman who became the "Queen" of salsa. Celia was recorded in New York and Paris, produced by David Donatien and mixed by Russell Elevado (D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington). Over the course of 10 beloved songs from Cruz’s extensive catalog but with special focus on her work from the 1950s, Angelique’s voice soars in lockstep with a grand presentation of rhythmic touchstones that delve deep into the history of music from Africa and it’s influence on the music of Cuba. Each song celebrates this idea – from the tight afro-beat groove of Baila Yemaja, the high octane take on Quimbara, the frantic energy of Bemba Colora to Oya Diosa, a lushly orchestrated ballad.

Angélique’s interpretation of The Talking Heads’ classic 1980 album, Remain in Light, was recorded with superstar producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Rolling Stones, Beyoncé), taking classic songs such as Crosseyed and Painless, Once in a Lifetime, and Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) and reinterpreting them with electrifying rhythms, African guitars, and layered backing vocals.

Her star-studded album DJIN DJIN won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008, and her album OYO was nominated for the same award in 2011. In January 2014 Angélique’s first book, a memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins) and her twelfth album, EVE (Savoy/429 Records), were released to critical acclaim. EVE later went on to win the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015, and her historic, orchestral album Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg (Savoy/429 Records) won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2016.

Angélique has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies including the Bruckner Orchestra, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Her collaboration with Philip Glass, IFÉ: Three Yorùbá Songs, made its US debut to a sold out concert with the San Francisco Symphony in June 2015. In 2019, Angelique helped Philip Glass premiere his latest work, Symphony #12 “Lodger”, a symphonic re-imaging of the David Bowie album of the same name, at a sold out performance at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition to performing this new orchestral concert, Angelique continues to tour globally performing the high-energy concert she’s become famous for with her four-piece band.

Angélique also travels the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF and OXFAM goodwill Ambassador. At the G7 Summit in 2019, President Macron of France named Kidjo as the spokesperson for the AFAWA initiative (Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa) to help close the financing gap for women entrepreneurs in Africa. She has also created her own charitable foundation, Batonga, dedicated to support the education of young girls in Africa.

MIF21 Postcards From Now

New films from artists under lockdown

The global COVID-19 pandemic is changing our world in countless ways: some already visible, others as yet unknown. It has shattered much of what we knew and understood about our lives. But could this tragedy also be an opportunity – a moment for us to reimagine, reshape and rebuild society to be fairer, brighter, better?

Postcards from Now presents five distinct perspectives from leading international artists of every stripe – choreographers, musicians, visual artists, theatre-makers, animators and more. Commissioned and created at the height of the global lockdown, these five films explore everything from community to communication, patriarchy to power. And in very different ways, they consider the question that we’ve all been asking ourselves and others: what happens next?

About Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival (MIF) is an artist-led festival of original, new work and special events reflecting the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. MIF21 takes place from 1 – 18 July 2021.

Staged every two years in Manchester, MIF has commissioned, produced and presented world premieres by artists including Marina Abramović, Damon Albarn, Laurie Anderson, Björk, Boris Charmatz, Jeremy Deller, Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Elbow, Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott, David Lynch, Wayne McGregor, Steve McQueen, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Yoko Ono, Thomas Ostermeier, Maxine Peake, Punchdrunk, Skepta, The xx, Robert Wilson and Zaha Hadid Architects.

These and other world-renowned artists from different art forms and backgrounds create dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking new work, staged in venues across Greater Manchester – from theatres, galleries and concert halls to railway depots, churches and car parks. MIF works closely with venues, festivals and other cultural organisations globally, whose financial and creative input helps to make many of these projects possible and ensures that work made at MIF goes on to be seen around the world.

MIF supports a year-round Creative Engagement programme, bringing opportunities for people from all backgrounds, ages and from all corners of the city to get involved during the Festival and year-round, as volunteers, as participants in shows, through skills development and a host of creative activities, such as Festival in My House.

MIF will also run The Factory, the new landmark cultural space currently being built in the heart of Manchester and designed by the internationally-renowned architect Ellen van Loon of Rem Koolhaas’ OMA. The Factory will commission, present and produce one of Europe’s most ambitious and adventurous year-round creative programmes, featuring bold new work from the world’s greatest artists and offering a space to create, invent and play.

Attracting up to 850,000 visitors annually, The Factory will add up to £1.1 billion to the economy over a decade and create up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs. Its pioneering programme of skills, training and engagement will benefit local people and the next generation of creative talent from across the city, whilst apprenticeships and trainee schemes are already underway during the construction phase.

MIF’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive is John McGrath.


MIF21: Postcards from Now

Postcards from Now by Manchester International Festival (MIF) presents five distinct perspectives from leading international artists. Commissioned and created at the height of the global lockdown, these five films explore everything from community to communication, patriarchy to power. And in very different ways, they consider the question that we’ve all been asking ourselves and others: what happens next?

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