Music

Review: BBC Proms Angelique Kidjo – First Lady of African Music gives Salsa infused Show

Kidjo’s Tuesday’s night BBC Proms late-night performance was billed as a tribute the late salsa vocalist Celia Cruz. With a career that spans decades the current New Yorker, was born in Benin. The singer, broadcaster and activist, first received international acclaim in the nineties, the three-time Grammy winner is known to perform in several languages which includes …… #Yoruba, French, English and Spanish. With a musical style that embraces reggae, African music, rock, she knows how to entertain. Her showmanship kept the Royal Albert Hall jigging and bopping: the audience from the stalls, the arena and gallery all on their feet by the end of the second song, a testament to the electrifying performance Kidjo gave from beginning to end. Adding to the up tempo night guest act leading Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, took to the stage to deliver “Toro Mata” and “La Vida es un Carnaval”.  (Image credit: BBC Mark Allan_ )

Her opening number “Baila Yemandja”  was  led by the exemplifying Senegalese percussionist Magatte Sow. This number is from Cruz’s catalogue and was one of her many songs influenced by African music. This was followed by the 1975 Cruz hit “Cucala”.

BBC proms is described as the greatest classical music festival in the world bringing in an African music act infused with salsa was a smart move as Kidjo backed by a section of sax, trumpet and trombone perhaps encouraged a more diverse audience on the night: the Promenaders a varied mix  age- wise, so it was a great way to introduce the music legend to a new generation. To quote Kidjo she was “bringing African music to the Royal Albert Hall”. And she brought it!!

Her vocal talent was put to the task when she performed “Sahara”, which is a tribute to salsa’s African roots. Dressed in an African print outfit the nearly 60 year old showed no signs of slowing down and performed impressive dance routines for the whole one and a half hour show.

Signature song “Afirika” proved to be the audience favorite, and they joined in with a singalong and danced to a song that they were familiar with. It was only fitting that the encore finale was “Pata Pata”, her role model Miriam Makeba’s anthemic song which solidifies Kidjo “bringing Africa to the Proms”. 

The BBC Proms continues until September 14. Tickets: 020 7070 4441; bbc.co.uk/proms

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