PLENARY SPEAKER: ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO

Photo of Angélique Kidjo

Three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, activist, and humanitarian, Angélique Kidjo, will give the Opening Plenary Address at the 14th Annual Conference in Boston. Her address, Education is Hope: Investing in the Future, will be delivered on Wednesday evening, March 21, followed immediately by the Welcome Reception.

Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today. A creative force with 13 albums to her name, TIME has called her “Africa’s premier diva.” With the strength of her voice, the power of her words, and the intensity of her performance, Angélique creates music that not only transcends language, it connects the entire world.

One of The Guardian‘s 100 most inspiring women in the world, she was the first woman on Forbes’s list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and OXFAM campaigner, Angélique speaks out for human rights and female empowerment through op-eds for CNN and The New York Times.

Kidjo’s career began in the West African country of Benin, where she performed with her mother’s theater troupe at age six. However, when the Communist takeover of Benin threatened her artistic expression, she fled to France, and later, New York City.

Her memoir, Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music, embodies Angélique’s vibrant personality with “a dramatic soulful mix of text, photos, and song lyrics.” With a forward by Desmond Tutu and an introduction from Alicia Keys, Publishers Weekly called the book “a beautifully told tale of courage and determination, revealing an expansive life that proves ‘music has no color, no language, no boundaries.’”

Angélique’s music is a cross-pollination of the West African music of Benin and elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America. She has sold out Carnegie Hall, topped the Billboard charts, and collaborated with Alicia Keys, Bono, and Philip Glass. “I work with everyone who believes that music is the tool of peace,” says Angélique.

She won the Grammy for Best World Music Album two years in a row in 2015 and 2016 with “Eve,” a tribute to African women, and with “Sings,” a blend of the exciting rhythmic sounds from her native land and Western classical traditions. In 2017, Angélique brought her reimagining of The Talking Heads’ seminal album, Remain in Light, to concert halls and festivals across the globe with a U.S. festival debut at Bonnaroo. She will record her version of the album with superstar producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyoncé).

For her role in the 2016 Nollywood movie The CEO, Kidjo won the AMAA award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

In 2007, she founded the Batonga Foundation to provide secondary education for girls across Africa and empower the female leaders of tomorrow. Celebrating her exceptional courage in standing up to injustice and improving the world through art, Angélique was awarded the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the 2016 Amnesty International “Ambassador of Conscience Award.”