“Africa has given a lot to the world of music,” Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo said in the middle of her performance in Kampala. This was the first time many people in the audience were seeing her perform and her, glad to be in the country, ready to entertain, educate but above all, carry an activism flag with messages of the girl child and identity.
“Poverty is something I cannot accept. I wonder why Africa is so rich, yet it has some of the poorest people,” she would say in the other performance. It was as though each performance had a message as a payoff.
But it was the annual Johnnie Walker World Jazz celebrations organized by Isaiah Katumwa, the kind of music festivities whose audience must now be used to all sorts of activism. From Manu Dibangu in 2018 to Hugh Masekela and Mama Miriam Makeba back in the earlier years of jazz music celebrations, Kidjo was not different. With a six-man band piece that comprised a lead guitar, bass, pianist, drummer and percussionist, she strolled through in her signature African fabric look, and a head gear that she would later lose before finishing the second song.
A performer she is, Kidjo wanted a busy audience, thus made enough bold decisions while creating her set list. For instance, she avoided many of her slower songs such as Loloye or the Lion King soundtrack, We are One, opting for higher tempo songs such as Once in a Lifetime, Batonga and Agolo.
Of course, while performing her newer music, it was not only her vocals that stood strong, it was her physique. At 58, she came all out dancing, twisting and locking to percussions.