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We speak to the inimitable Angélique Kidjo who shares some of her refreshing thoughts on Africa Day.

Angélique Kidjo on Africa Day: 'We demand not to be at the mercy of our circumstances anymore.'

We speak to the inimitable Angélique Kidjo who shares some of her refreshing thoughts on Africa Day.

Today isAfrica Dayand while primarily a commemoration of the formation of the African Union (AU) back in 1963, it has also become an opportunity to unapologetically celebrate Africa while providing a moment for reflection on how far we've come as a continent and as a people.

With this year's theme focused on "Silencing the Guns in the context of the COVID19", there has never been a more important time for deep reflection on our collective present and future as Africans.

And who better to share in that reflection than the legendary and inimitable Beninese musician Angélique Kidjo? A fierce African and artist who has paved the way for many of her contemporaries including Burna Boy, Davido, Thandiswa Mazwai, and several others, the four-time Grammy award winner emphasises the urgent need for unity among Africans. 'It's about time that people start realising that Africa is a continent. I've been saying this my entire career,' she says passionately.

OkayAfrica spoke briefly to Kidjo who shared some of her refreshing thoughts on this year's Africa Day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


What are some of your thoughts on Africa Day and some of the celebrations going on?

I don't know what took us so long for Africa Day to be celebrated in 2020. But I say better later than never. I hope we'll do this every year to incorporate new coming artists and give them a platform. We Africans have the knowledge and the capacity of doing and [bringing] the attention of the world to the vibrancy and creativity that come from Africa. Music is easy to do but we should be able to do it with a free form of art that is there. We could do music [Africa Day], a fashion one, a literature one, contemporary art. We have a massive amount of art that is not known even in Africa, let alone the rest of the world. And I think this is very crucial for us to do for the young generation to be proud of their continent and to be able to find meaning to be alive.

READ: Angélique Kidjo on Success

What do you think are some points for reflection for Africans across the continent on this particular day?

What we should be thinking about right now is how, after this pandemic, we reset the button about Africa and pan-Africanism.

"We've seen throughout the centuries that being divided has never benefitted us. It benefits people outside."

The important thing we should realise in order for us to stand on both our feet and to to be counted, we have to be united. There's no other way we can do it. And also, for civil society to be a force that politicians have to reckon with, we have to be heard. In order to develop our countries, we need infrastructure for us to be able artists who can perform every where in Africa. Anyone would be welcome but we would walk our own road. No one should impose to us how we should do it. That needs advocacy from the social entrepreneur, lawmakers and everybody to make sure that we are protected in every way, shape or form: artistically and economically. We demand not to be at the mercy of our circumstances anymore.

When you think of this particular day, what artists or songs come to mind in the way of celebrating Africa?

My favourite one is always the traditional music that brings us to realize how we have impacted the music of the world. That's where everything started. We tend to think that we have to copy music that comes from another part of the world. No, we are centre of their music. Their music exists because of Africa. And so I celebrate the music of my continent. I celebrate its vibrancy, tolerance towards other cultures. We never we never discriminate and welcome every music and we use every music. Music should be that. It has no nationality, no boundaries. I'm proud of being African because of what we brought to the culture of before. And that's the thing, we have to educate the younger generation for them to realise that if they like music from from Jay-Z, from anybody, Africa is at the centre of it. We have nothing to envy and have something to bring to the table.

"Celia" wins Best World Music Album | 2020 GRAMMYSwww.youtube.com

For the longest time, the narrative has been about Africa and African artists going to the world but everyone is starting to realise that Africa has always been at the centre. What do you make of that?

"Well, it's about time."

It's about time that people start realising that Africa is a continent. I've been saying this my entire career. I've had some frustrating interviews throughout my career where I've always had to justify that where I come from is not a pigeonhole but a continent with a lot of things that you have been consuming. The sugar you put in your coffee, without Africans, you don't have it. I mean, the wealth you are enjoying today, we are part of it. I think that we have to take pride in the fact that despite all the obstacles and all the hurdles on our way, we managed to exist.

We have a new genre of music that is appealing to everybody. How did Latin Americans' music make it to the whole world? Everybody started playing it in Latin America and abroad. The Afrobeat that is out there, we all have to start incorporating it so that it becomes our signature. It doesn't mean that that Afrobeat is putting aside our traditional music. Being creative and using one type of music that is really recognisable by everybody in the world can help us map Africa, musically, to the point that everything else that comes in, it flows. Without Afrobeat, there's no funk or reggae, everything.

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There's a buzz in the Senegalese capital and an upbeat mood on the streets -- thanks in large part to Chanel unveiling its Métiers d’art collection on Tuesday. In the lead-up to the French luxury house's history-making show in Dakar, Dakar Fashion Week had just closed out with an all-white afterparty at the Phare des Mamelles, and a three-day cultural program to engage local creatives across art, film, and music captivated visitors and locals alike.

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Photo courtesy of Red Bull.

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Red Bull TV recently unveiled Uncredited: The Story of Afro Dance, a film highlighting Nigeria's vibrant and influential dance scene. The story highlights backstories and performances from several renowned and upcoming artists, including Kafayat "Kaffy" Shafau, who was one of the pioneers of Nigeria's Afro Dance, and the influence that it had on the Nigerian music scene and in African pop culture in general.

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Afrobeats has become a global phenomenon, which has influenced viral TikTok dance trends seen across the world. Although the work of Afro Dance innovators has significantly contributed to the success of global music hits, many of its originators have been unsung. This documentary gives viewers an opportunity to give the iconic dancers their flowers for their numerous contributions to African music and pop culture.

\u200bStill from The Story of Afro Dance.

Still from The Story of Afro Dance.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

In conjunction with the documentary's release, from December 8th through 10th, the world's most celebrated dancers – including Liberian-Korean dancer David "The Crown" Staler – will take center stage at the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final in Johannesburg, South Africa. During the event, over 30 countries will bring their best street dancers to the world's biggest street dance competition, which will welcome all street dance styles together, where they will showcase their creativity and expertise to impress the audience.

A segment of the documentary follows dancers to the national finals of the Red Bull Dance Your Style contest, which highlights the next generation of street dancers. Among them is Chibueze Blayke, who nearly gave up on a dance career, and members of Nigeria's viral Westsyde Lifestyle dance crew, BJ Miah and dancer Eromose-Ordia Tom-Tom.

While discussing the show, legendary Nigerian dancer Kaffy, known for her electric dance moves in a multitude of iconic music videos, said that the platform gave an excellent opportunity to rising talent. "I'm so happy when opportunities like this arrive," said Kaffy. "These young people are underserved with platforms, and that's what it is – it's just the beginning of unraveling greatness."

The Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final will stream live from Johannesburg on TikTok on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Watch Uncredited: The Story of Afro Dance here

Film
Photo: Sundance Institute

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Last year's Sundance Film Festival gave us delights such as Nigerian American director Adamma Ebo’s debut feature, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul, and Oliver Hermanus' Living, a moving retelling of the Kurosawa classic, Ikiru. It also saw the debut of Nikyatu Jusu's Nanny, which went on to win the fest's main prize. The Sierra Leonean American director's film, about an undocumented Senegalese woman who becomes a nanny to a wealthy couple on New York’s Upper East Side, stayed top of mind for many critics in the months that followed after its premiere.

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