Angélique Kidjo has an amazing voice.
Its resonance filled the hall, expressive and warm. I know that she is famous for the length of time she can hold a note. That is impressive, but it may not be useful, depending on the quality of the note. That is not a problem here. She achieved this volume without sounding hoarse or bombastic, and at first it was hard to focus on anything but my awe.
As you get used to the power, it begins to feel appropriate. The warmth of her voice and delivery coincides with the warmth of her personality. She is funny and nurturing, and it would come through in her stories and explanations even without being aware of her activism and advocacy.
Kidjo's strength and vitality would be obvious in her dancing and teasing of the audience and playfulness with the conductor. After many songs her energy only grew, sending her out into the audience.
It starts to make a certain sense that all of these qualities would manifest themselves vocally. And yet, that isn't necessarily right either, because many wonderful people cannot sing a note. Somehow in this person it works out, a voice and a heart to inspire, matched up perfectly in one gift to music.
I have been listening to some of Kidjo's recordings, and I recognize many of the songs from the performance: "Kelele", "Afirika", "Fifa". They are good, and then there were fun surprises. I was especially glad to hear her version of Boléro, "Lonlon".
But I know now that you do not get the full affect of her greatness through a recording. If you have an opportunity to hear her in person, you should grab for it.
I am grateful to my friend Karen for taking me.