The Ina & Jack Kay Theatre at The Clarice was cozily packed Friday night with a diverse audience, eager for “Africa’s Premier Diva” to take the stage.

Grammy Award-winning vocalist Angélique Kidjo is renowned for using her voice as an instrument of beauty, change and strength. The West African artist is a UNICEF and OXFAM goodwill ambassador, author of the memoir Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music and creator of the Batonga foundation, which is devoted to supporting the education of young women in Africa.

Kidjo’s intense and striking voice was the centerpiece of the show, supported by four enthusiastic male musicians who incorporated guitars, percussions, traditional African drums and background vocals. Her style is a blend of West African music, R&B and jazz.

Kidjo painted the stage with her passion and lively energy, wearing a self-made, vibrantly colored orange and blue traditional African ensemble and a gleaming gold medallion.

The background lighting was always a solid color, ranging from a luminous magenta to a calm sky blue. The performance was extremely personal. Kidjo shared her stories, wisdom and insight before releasing her energy into the audience with her chilling, elevated vocals.

Before performing her famous song, “Awalole,” she proudly reflected on the achievements and influence of her Batonga foundation, describing the happiness she feels seeing young girls evolving through education. 

“This mic is their voice too,” she said.

The background melted to a dusty rose as the audience tuned into her rich and enchanting sound. Regardless of the language barrier, her voice demanded respect, attention and the delivery of a greater message.

Similarly, before performing “Eva,” Kidjo emphasized the stunning elegance and pride of African women and culture, opposing the negative connotations and oppression associated with African women. She played out the way an African woman from her hometown might walk around the market place, strutting in beauty with no sign of pain, and the versatility and creativity of African clothing.

Audience members often laughed with Kidjo while she nodded her head in agreement or pointed a finger at the sky, expressing her connection with the audience.

Kidjo spoke about several subjects throughout the night, including the recent attacks in Paris, Lebanon and the United States.

“Fear and hate is not the answer to violence … please don’t turn against each other,” she said “Once we use our fist over our mind, we have lost everything.”

But that somber mood flipped like a switch as soon as she began a lively tune, jumping like a spring and isolating the movements of her body with the beat; the crowd couldn’t resist her energy and attitude.

“Don’t let those chairs fool you,” she joked. “Dance if you feel it!”

Soon, people were out of their seats, clapping, dancing and even shedding a tear together to the addictive rhythm. The theatre became a community.

Many times, she pointed her mic at the audience as to give them a voice.

“Don’t be shy … louder … release the pressure,” she said, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Kidjo invited everyone to partake in the “celebration of life,” closing with the song “Mama Africa.”

By the end of the show, a large portion of the audience had taken the stage with her, singing along, expressing their happiness and improvising to the beat of the drum.

The performance was a refreshing celebration of diversity, the beauty of African culture,tradition and life. Music filled the theatre, along with the communal hope for a brighter tomorrow. The night ended in smiles, dancing and a standing ovation.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stig Ove Voll’s Flickr account.

Racquel Royer is a freshman journalism major and may be reached at Royer.racquel.edu@gmail.com.

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