Angelique Kidjo: Singing Songs of Hope in a Universal Language
The Hun School of Princeton’s Centennial Speaker Series continued on Tuesday, January 26th with Grammy award-winning singer, social activist, and humanitarian Angélique Kidjo. Ms. Kidjo wowed students, faculty, and guests with the power of her voice and the message of her songs. She told stories of her childhood: how she was afforded an education, how her family supported her love of singing, and how her work as a musician brought her back to her native Africa as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
In her role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Kidjo knew that she wanted to shine a light on the limited access for girls’ to secondary education in Africa.
“When you are a girl, born in Africa, you have no identity. You belong to your father, who has the right to do whatever he wants with your life,” said Ms. Kidjo. She went on to explain that many girls are bartered as commodities in exchange for goods or money as young brides and mothers.
She continued, “It is proven, today, that when you invest in girls’ education – and it doesn’t matter where in the world – the GDP in the country rises up. We need to empower the girls, the women of this world, in order for our world to take another path. The path we are on is dangerous. I believe in the education of girls to solve a lot of problems.”
With her own education and the rare talent of her voice, Ms. Kidjo began writing and performing songs that addressed the problems she saw in the world, along with a positive and hopeful message.
“My music has always been influenced by social issues,” explained Ms. Kidjo. “It is primarily through music that we can create a dialog between people. People can’t always speak the same language, but everyone can understand rhythm. You can understand the meaning of a song through your body, not just through your brain.”
As a young girl, Ms. Kidjo’s father explained the important responsibility she would have as an artist. He said to her, “It is your duty as an artist to write songs that build bridges – between culture, between people – to bring them to sit at the table and find a solution together.”
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.