A powerful singer and tireless performer, Angélique Kidjo has been one of the most successful performers to emerge on world music stages in the 1990s and 2000s. Her music not only draws from African traditions but also interprets the ways those traditions developed after Africans were seized and taken to the New World. Thus elements of American soul, funk, rap, and jazz, Brazilian samba, Jamaican reggae, and Cuban and Puerto Rican salsa all show up on her recordings, along with various African styles. Early in her career, Kidjo told Guardian reporter Jonathan Romney that "my records sound like dance music because that's the only way for Europeans to approach something they don't know," and as she evolved into one of the international music scene's most popular concert attractions, she accumulated a large fan base that happily came on stage and danced with her.
Kidjo is a native of Benin, on Africa's Atlantic coast adjacent to Nigeria; the first of her eight languages was Fon. She was born in the coastal city of Ouidah, to government postal official Franck Kidjo (an enthusiastic photographer and banjo player on the side) and his choreographer wife Yvonne. Kidjo was lucky enough to have parents who backed her performing ambitions – female popular vocalists are rare in many African countries, and, as she told the Guardian, "It's very, very rare in Africa to find parents who aren't there mainly to stop you doing what you want."