The crowd fell quiet as the Zanetti School Children’s choir and the Springfield community choir serenaded the few hundred people filling the Springfield College field house last Thursday night. Full of expectations for the three-time Grammy award winning singer Angelique Kidjo, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation for the singer as she came out to her seat. The blue and red lights illuminated the stage in the otherwise dark field house. There was both excitement and happiness that could be felt throughout the room.
Anne Herzog, dean of the School of Arts, Sciences and Professional Studies, introduced Kidjo by exciting the crowd in saying, “If you have not had the experience of hearing her speak or sing, prior to tonight, I’m sure you will be convinced of this point… Angelique’s spirit is one of energy, exuberance, resilience, and pride.” If the crowd wasn’t excited enough, they were locked in then.
Kidjo opened her night not by introducing herself, but by allowing her singing to do it for her. The opening number had no English in it, yet the talent was incomparable. Those in the audience were not in their seats, but on the edge. There was not a peep coming from anyone because people were too wrapped up in the voice of the singer and the guitar of Dominic James.
As the song came to a close, Kidjo spoke for the first time in a tongue that could confuse many as there were hints of African, French, and American throughout. She spoke of love and happiness, and how large of a role it played in her journey as a child.
“What made me the person that I am today and why am I always positive and always full of joy?” she asked. “And I don’t know how to answer that, because I have never known any other way… Money was never there, (in her home) but love was always there, every single second minute and moment.”
There was an obvious theme to the night from the beginning and that was the idea of spreading love and happiness; nothing else but love and happiness. The audience was captivated by the way she was able to move them and make them laugh one minute and the next she would make them fall silent in awe of the power that she was able to speak with.
After a both detailed and brief description of how she got to where she is, she began on a new topic, one that would ring in the ears of all listeners even after the show; the idea of the importance of education.
“You want to live in a more peaceful world, a more progressive world, you need to educate girls,” Kidjo said. She is heavily involved in UNICEF and has made great strides in working with girls from her home country of Benin and surrounding countries to better educate all women. Although she believes that education is important for all, there needs to be an emphasis on the education of girls.
Kidjo, in support of the progression of humanity as a whole, sees the education of girls as also being the solution to getting the world going forward again. “As long as we keep women behind, thinking that because of their sex they are not worth it, nothing is gonna move,” she said.
Kidjo’s presence alone was a treat for anyone that is willing to listen and observe, but she was able to move the crowd in a way that left a lasting impact on all those in attendance. Freshman Carley Moyher was able to witness the power and moral strength that Kidjo spoke with. “The comfort that she had on the stage was amazing and the way that she was able to just command the crowd had everyone wrapped around her finger, but in a good way, and also just the way she was able to keep the crowd so engaged was astounding,” Moyher said.
Although the event was only roughly an hour and a half, there was a lifetime of experience and empowerment packed in. There was so much to take away from her speaking and her singing. But there were a few keys to her power that the audience was able to leave with that would keep them thinking about who they were and what they had to offer the world in order to make it a better place.
“Don’t think you have to go to Africa to change the world. You can change the world right here at home,” she said. This rang true to many and also her question “What is the color of your soul?” called people to consider who they were in relation to all those around them. And if you want to unify a world, you must give everyone a common thread.