|Hamburg, 21 February 2023: She is arguably Africa’s most influential singer and, with five Grammys, the continent’s most decorated musician: after several acclaimed concerts, Angélique Kidjo returns to the Elbphilharmonie from 9 to 12 March to curate a four-day »Reflektor« Festival. She is bringing with her some of Africa’s most exciting female voices: from Dobet Gnahoré from Côte d’Ivoire and Oum from Morocco to Lura, who performs music from the Cape Verde Islands. Kidjo herself will be presenting »Queen of Sheba«, a new project to music by the French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, and she will also be singing »Les mots d’amour« with the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud. For the grand finale on 12 March, Kidjo is joined by the »African Women All-Stars« in the Grand Hall. The »Reflektor« Festival is accompanied by an extensive programme of fringe events.
The Benin-born singer Angélique Kidjo blends west-African influences with R&B, funk and pop in a thrilling and energetic style, and she is also a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and against corruption and global warming. Kidjo has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2002, and in 2016 Amnesty International named her Ambassador of Conscience. She is also active with Oxfam. And she sometimes appears in Hollywood blockbusters on the side. During her »Reflektor« Festival, the multi-award-winning singer now curates the Elbphilharmonie programme for four whole days. And she has invited stars from the African and Afro-diasporic music scene to join her.
Angélique Kidjo is »delighted to have been able to curate this four-day festival. The Elbphilharmonie has a special place in my heart and is a concert hall that inspires me every time I perform here. I am really looking forward to being in Hamburg again and I can’t wait to see my German audience in March. Being on stage with my dear friends Ibrahim Maalouf and Alexandre Tharaud, and gathering some of Africa’s greatest female voices is, for me, an act of mutual empowerment. Together we can achieve great things, if we listen to and support each other, like we do in music.«
For the Elbphilharmonie and Laeiszhalle Hamburg’s General and Artistic Director Christoph Lieben-Seutter, »the Angélique Kidjo Reflektor is one of this season’s absolute highlights. For decades, Kidjo has been one of those international singers you just can’t ignore. Her previous appearances in Hamburg were nothing less than intoxicating. That she’s doing this festival here – I see that as an enormous compliment to the Elbphilharmonie and to her audience. We’re all very excited about immersing ourselves in her cosmos for four whole days.«
Danceable, dynamic songs combined with socio-critical lyrics: that is the music of the singer, dancer, percussionist and songwriter from Côte d’Ivoire Dobet Gnahoré, who has taken her country’s modern Afro-pop sound to new heights. The Paris-based Grammy-winner opens the »Reflektor« Festival with her quartet on 9 March.
As a youth, Ibrahim Maalouf left Lebanon for France as a refugee of the civil war. In Paris, he first studied the classical trumpet but increasingly turned to jazz and Arabic music. His compositions are characterised by a unique grace and elegance. Together with Angélique Kidjo, he presents the project »Queen of Sheba«, in which their two musical spheres meet, on 9 March. The music was composed by Maalouf: Kidjo’s singing is accompanied by a large string orchestra and band. Maalouf is also giving an intimate concert in the Recital Hall on 10 March with the Belgian guitarist François Delporte.
Somi is a New York-based singer, songwriter, playwright and actress with roots in Rwanda and Uganda. She will be performing tracks from her new album in the Elbphilharmonie on 10 March: »Zenzile« is a homage to the iconic South African singer Miriam Makeba, »Mama Africa«, whose name stands today for the pursuit of freedom and emancipation. Somi will be performing her reimaginations of Makeba’s major hits and less familiar songs in the Grand Hall.
When Angélique Kidjo and the sophisticated classical pianist Alexandre Tharaud met two years ago, the music world gained an outstanding duo. The two musicians have far more in common than only the French language: in their programme »Les mots d’amour« on 11 March, they explore the many expressions of love with chansons by artists such as Josephine Baker, Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.
The music of the Lisbon-born singer Lura, who is performing in the Grand Hall on 11 March, carries the entire complexity of the Afro-diasporic experience. In her spirited, energetic songs, she mixes traditional Cape Verdean music with modern forms of pop to create a captivating blend. Above the enthralling rhythms and harmonies, her magnificent, heart-warming voice radiates darkly.
The Casablanca-born singer and songwriter El Ghait Benessahraoui, better known as Oum, is one of the highest-profile singers from the Maghreb. That is also down to her long-term political engagement for religious and sexual freedom and environmental protection. With her light, clear voice, she mixes the traditional Arabic music of the Western Sahara with influences from gospel, soul and jazz to create a hypnotic blend. Accompanied by her band, she will be presenting her album »Daba« – Moroccan for »Now« – on 12 March.
The Senegalese musician Ablaye Cissoko is one of the world’s greatest Kora players. The kora is a west-African bridge-harp that is plucked with both hands and that is just as suited for virtuosity as it is for contemplation. Cissoko has been playing the instrument since he was a boy and gave his first public performance when he was only twelve. And shortly after that he began his studies at the University of Dakar. Cissoko, who now lives in Saint-Louis in France, combines a »crystal-clear and modern musicality with an exceptionally seductive voice«, says »Le Monde«.
The Reflektor comes to a close with a big celebration – and a matter close to Angélique Kidjo’s heart. On 12 March, she will be gathering most of the female singers invited to the festival together in the Grand Hall to celebrate the diversity of music and the women making it: they are the »African Women All-Stars«. This promises to be a vivacious gathering that is not to be missed, with an opportunity to join in the celebrating and the dancing.
The Elbphilharmonie+ accompanying programme broadens our view of Angélique Kidjo’s musical and cultural cosmos. Zeise Kinos are screening two films: The action-packed drama »The Woman King« (5 and 12 Mar), starring Oscar-winner Viola Davis in the main role, is a powerful statement for black female empowerment. The story is based on historic events that happened in the Kingdom of Dahomey, known today as Benin, in the late 18th century. That is also the native home of Angélique Kidjo, who features in the film both as an actress and with her title song »Keep Rising«. The documentary »Mama Africa – Miriam Makeba« (5 and 12 Mar) by the Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki is a record of the legendary singer’s life. The film features concert recordings of global hits such as »Pata Pata«, and documents her battle against the apartheid regime and her escape into exile in America, complete with contributions from friends and companions. In »Kidjo’s Kitchen Talk« in M.Bassy on 7 March, Angélique Kidjo will be joined by the British-Ugandan author, journalist and musician Musa Okwonga for a conversation about food, identity and life in the diaspora as they cook together.