In praise of Angelique.

If God spoke with a human voice*, I think she would sound like Angelique Kidjo. I’ve been listening to her for the better part of a year now–she’s made eleven albums and sings in seven languages (including one she made up)–and tonight I saw her live in concert for the first time. For awhile I had tears in my eyes, because I was just reconciling myself to her actual presence, this artist whose music has been my constant companion for the past year. It was no surprise that she turned out to be a powerful, electric, generous performer. I loved how she closed her eyes as she sang, as if listening at the very same time as she was singing…as if the two acts were the same. (See her performing “Zelie” unplugged here.)

Sometimes people ask me why I consider musicians to be a huge influence, if I’m a playwright; or how a painter can be a huge influence, if I’m a novelist; and so on. The connections are mystical (and are the subject of my next novel, actually). But here’s a concrete example: one of the main characters in my novel, Yvonne, is, at this moment, a four-year-old girl growing up in Dakar, Senegal. And her favorite singer? Angelique Kidjo, mais oui.


*Not that God doesn’t, all the time, but you know what I mean.

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