Angelique Kidjo is the most successful and innovative singer to have emerged from the small states of Francophone West Africa. She was born in Ouidah, a small coastal town in Benin, one of nine children. Her mother, a choreographer and theater director, ran a small theater troupe in which Kidjo performed as a child. She later sang with her older siblings in the Kidjo Brothers Band, recording for Benin radio mostly folkloric music-- epic songs full of allusions to the history of the villages and the vodou ceremonies of the older generation.
While in her teens, Kidjo began touring Benin, and had her first local hits by 1979. By this time her music had begun to reflect a more cosmopolitan sensibility. Benin was open to many international musical styles during the 1970s-- salsa, makossa, the new urban African music from South Africa and American soul and rock were heard on local radio.
Eventually persuaded to pursue her career in Europe, she arrived in Paris in 1983 and discovered a rich cross-fertilization of musical styles. A new generation of artists, freed from the constraints of African tradition yet incorporating their roots within Western music, were creating revolutionary sounds. Kidjo was clearly in her element; since moving to France she has become an international star and has recorded three albums for the Mango label.