Kidjo beat Malawi’s Zomba Prison Project to win Grammy for Best World Music Album

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Angelique Kidjo, one of Africa’s most prominent musicians, won her third Grammy on Monday and dedicated it to aspiring artists on the continent.

¬†The Beninese-born singer won the Grammy for Best World Music Album for “Sings,” a collection of her songs infused with Western classical traditions in a collaboration with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

This is the second straight year that Kidjo has won the Best World Music Album prize, after last year’s “Eve” that paid tribute to African women.

“Sings” beat out a highly innovative Grammy nominee from Africa — an album by Malawi’s Zomba Prison Project.

The 20-track album, arranged by the US producer Ian Brennan, explored the unexpected musical talents of prisoners at a maximum-security prison.

“I am a reformed person, and music has helped me to be cool and deal with the situation of being incarcerated for life,” Elias Chimenya, who is serving a life term for killing a man in a quarrel, told AFP earlier in Malawi.

A visibly happy Kidjo, dressed in a colorful African dress, ran to the stage to accept the award and danced to James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” performed by a pit orchestra.

“I want to dedicate this Grammy to all the traditional musicians in Africa, in my country, to all the young generation,” Kidjo said.

“Africa is on the rise, Africa is positive, Africa is joyful,” she said.

“Let’s get together and be one with music, and say no to hate and violence,” she said to applause.

The album merges African songwriting and rhythms with European classical instrumentation — as well as other Western music.

Collaborators on “Sings” include the bassist Christian McBride, who separately won his latest Grammy on Monday in the category of Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Kidjo described the album as an artistic challenge as traditional African bands follow the lead of the soloist much more closely, unlike Western orchestras that generally play off refined scores.

Kidjo, who is based in New York, has long experimented with Western fusion and is due to perform again at Carnegie Hall in the upcoming season.

The three others in contention for the World Music Grammy were all previous nominees — sitarist Anoushka Shankar, Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil and South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

 

– AFP

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