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Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music

Overview

Grammy Award-winning singer Angélique Kidjo is known for her electrifying voice and fearless advocacy work. In this intimate memoir, she reveals how she escaped Communist Africa to make her dreams a reality, and how she's prompting others all around the world to reach for theirs as well.

Born in the West African nation of Benin, Angélique Kidjo grew up surrounded by the rich sounds, rhythms, and storytelling of traditional Beninese culture. When the Communists took over, they ...

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Overview

Grammy Award-winning singer Angélique Kidjo is known for her electrifying voice and fearless advocacy work. In this intimate memoir, she reveals how she escaped Communist Africa to make her dreams a reality, and how she's prompting others all around the world to reach for theirs as well.

Born in the West African nation of Benin, Angélique Kidjo grew up surrounded by the rich sounds, rhythms, and storytelling of traditional Beninese culture. When the Communists took over, they silenced her dynamic culture and demanded that she sing in praise of them. In Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music, Angélique reveals the details of her dangerous escape into France, and how she rose from poverty to become a Grammy Award–winning artist and an international sensation at the top of Billboard's World Albums chart. She also explains why it's important to give back by sharing stories from her work as a UNICEF ambassador and as founder of the Batonga Foundation, which gives African girls access to education.

Desmond Tutu has contributed the foreword to this remarkable volume; Alicia Keys has provided an introduction. Her eloquent, inspiring narrative is paired with more than one hundred colorful photographs documenting Angélique's life and experiences, as well as a sampling of recipes that has sustained her on her remarkable odyssey.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
Opening with Kidjo’s childhood in Benin, a small country in West Africa, and concluding with a Carnegie Hall performance, this inspiring memoir is as much about the author’s love for family and homeland as it is about music. Growing up as one of 10 children, the aspiring musician was lovingly supported by her parents; her mother, who worked in theatre, put her on the stage to sing at age six; her father made sure his children were well educated, and her grandmother encouraged Kidjo to follow her heart, even when others disapproved. Though raised in a home that encouraged lively dialogue, Kidjo fled to France at the age of 23; Benin had fallen under communist rule and she could no longer freely practice her art. In Paris, she studied classical voice, built her reputation, met her future husband (Jean Hebrail, a bass player), and began to combine western and African music, establishing her own vibrant style. Eventually, she signed on with Island Records (and later with Columbia) and moved to New York. As her reputation grew and her music rose on the Billboard charts, the Grammy Award–winning Kidjo traveled the world as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, advocating for women’s rights and other issues. Fans and general readers will be enamored of this beautifully told tale of courage and determination, revealing an expansive life that proves “music has no color, no language, no boundaries.” Includes 125 illustrations. (Jan.)
Elle
“Spinning a dramatic soulful mix of text, photos, song lyrics, and even family recipes, Grammy-winning West African-born Angelique Kidjo … takes us from her first vocal performance … to her current life as a world-pop-chart-topping singer-songwriter, humanitarian activist, and UNICEF goodwill ambassador.”
Elle
“Spinning a dramatic soulful mix of text, photos, song lyrics, and even family recipes, Grammy-winning West African-born Angelique Kidjo … takes us from her first vocal performance … to her current life as a world-pop-chart-topping singer-songwriter, humanitarian activist, and UNICEF goodwill ambassador.”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-26
A Grammy Award–winning Beninese singer/songwriter's heartfelt memoir, co-authored by Wenrick, about her life as a musician and human rights activist. Kidjo began her career in entertainment at age 6, when her mother pushed her onto a theater stage and told the little girl to sing. Terrified, the author quickly overcame her fears and realized that she had arrived "home." The singer began performing with her older brothers and immersing herself in music not only from Benin, but also Togo, France and the United States. Her great artistic awakening came a few years later after she heard Miriam Makeba singing on the radio. The legendary South African singer's "magical [and] uplifting" voice inspired the young Kidjo to become "just like her." After high school, Kidjo became a popular solo performer in both Benin and neighboring Togo, but her growing fame also brought her and her family under the scrutiny of an increasingly totalitarian Beninese government. At 23, she fled to Paris, where her path eventually led her to le CIM, the school for jazz. Kidjo pursued her interests in fusions that merged jazz, which fellow students told her "[wasn't] for Africans," with traditional African lyrics and rhythms. Her artistic boldness caught the attention of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who had discovered such world music icons as Bob Marley and U2. Like most of Blackwell's protégées, Kidjo also achieved international recognition. Yet it was only after she began doing humanitarian work in Africa for UNICEF that she was finally able to act on her long-standing need to give back to a land that had "given [her] so much." Richly illustrated throughout with black-and-white photographs, Kidjo's work celebrates one woman's courage to use her musical gift "to empower people all over the world." Warm, lively and compassionate.
Library Journal
02/01/2014
Kidjo's memoir brims with the same joy, exuberance, and wisdom exhibited in her music while adding depth and insight into her art and life and the triumph of making connections through music. She grew up in Benin (West Africa), with a family full of songs and love. In order to continue to create her music, Kidjo fled a dictatorship and moved to France, where she struggled to support herself and against the "coolness toward African immigrants." She studied music, got married, and built on her interest in human rights. Through many collaborations—with Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley, and Branford Marsalis, to name only a few—across cultures, styles, and countries, she details how she combines the music of Africa with music from the diaspora, extracted through slavery, constructing unique combinations and blending modern and traditional, roots and technology, jazz, and more with drums and complex rhythms at the center. She outlines how she has used her notoriety, as well as her predilection to speak her mind, to visit and advocate for women and children through UNICEF and her own foundation. VERDICT History, culture, and humanity come alive in the music and now in the Grammy winner's memoir. Highly recommended for fans of music and readers of African history.—Lani Smith, Ohone Coll. Lib., Fremont, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062071798
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 244,088
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Angelique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award-winning musician, a UNICEF ambassador, and the founder of the Batonga Foundation, which gives African girls access to education. She has collaborated with artists including Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Alicia Keys, Josh Groban, Branford Marsalis, and Joss Stone, and has been praised by leading political figures such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu.

Rachel Wenrick received an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Drexel University.

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