- Angelique Kidjo has reinforced her worldwide influence by adding yet another feather to her cap.
- The prestigious Polar Music Prize has been added to her repertoire of universally recognized laurels.
- This is yet another rewarding recognition for her, her family, Africa, and her fans globally.
On Tuesday, 28th March 2023, five-time Grammy winner and Africa’s own Angelique Kidjo was announced as one of three winners of the 2023 Polar Music Prize. She was named a recipient of the prestigious Prize together with Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell of Britain, and Arvo Part, a composer from Estonia, giving her a hallowed place in this unique company of greats.
Blessed with a profound and strong vocal, the Beninese singer-songwriter who sings in her native Fon and Yoruba languages as well as in French and English, earned a rather usual compliment from the organizers of Sweden’s Polar Music Prize; they labelled the polyglot singer “one of the greatest singer-songwriters in international music.”
Time magazine had named Kidjo “Africa’s premier diva”, and this year, she joins only two former recipients of the Polar Music Prize from Africa: Miriam Makeba from South Africa who won the Prize in in 2002, and Youssou N’Dour from Senegal who won in 2013. Blackwell founded the Island Records and signed legendary stars like Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Roxy Music and U2. Estonia’s Arvo Part, who the judges called “the world’s most performed living composer”, got recognized for his “unique compositional technique, tintinnabuli” which he invented in the 1970s.
Founded in 1989 by ABBA manager Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, the Sweden-based Polar Music Prize has been presented since 1992 and is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the music industry rewarding the laureates with about $58,000 each. The Polar Music Prize honored Iggy Pop and US songwriter Diane Warren, Last year. Previous winners include Paul McCartney in 1992, Elton John in 1995, Stevie Wonder in 1999, Björk in 2010, and Sting in 2017.
Expressing how delighted she is, Kidjo says, “To be awarded the Polar Music Prize is humbling, I have no words to say how important this is for me. It comes with a sense of responsibility that is bestowed upon me as an artist to continue to do great work. I will do my best to be a proud recipient of the Prize through my work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, on behalf of the children, and as an ambassador of music, to help create a world in which we can all live in peace.”
Kidjo has put her creative might into thirteen premium albums credited to her. The West African music icon was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2002 and she has remained an avid crusader for the rights of children, climate change, and girls’ education. Angélique who has been to many parts of the world advocating for UNICEF-supported programmes also created her own charitable foundation, Batonga, devoted to wholistically supporting the education of young girls in Africa. She says “I believe music is a language beyond the color of skin, country or culture. I want to inspire people to work to help educate, nourish and protect our children.”
Kidjo’s major hits include “Agolo” and “We We”. In a chat with CNN’s African Voices in 2018 she said, “having a beautiful voice is one thing, you always have to think about what you want to do with that voice.”
The ceremony for the 2023 Polar Music Prize will take place on May 23 in Stockholm, the capital and largest city of Sweden as well as the largest urban location in Scandinavia.