Mother Nature

Angelique Kidjo

Mother Nature

As a follow-up from her 2019 Grammy Award-winning album Celia, Angelique Kidjo’s highly collaborative Mother Nature is the Beninese singer’s reckoning with both climate change and her own legacy. “When I became pregnant, it was obvious to ask myself the question: What kind of world are we going to leave to our children and beyond?” she tells Apple Music. “And it became more and more relevant as I started seeing the proof of climate change—let me start writing a love letter to Mother Earth, Mother Nature. This album is also about having a conversation with the younger generation—the transmission of culture as our grandparents have done.”
She says the album has been long overdue—“I've had this album in me somehow since 1993,” she says—but with the pandemic lockdown, “I had the luxury of time to spread my wings and to do the music the way I wanted, without stressing.” Collaborating with younger artists and multiple producers, Kidjo created a body of work that’s cohesive and upbeat, even though the subject matter is sometimes grave—the result of giving her collaborators freedom and space to be themselves. “You don’t invite somebody to have dinner with you to tell them, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t eat that now.’ You offer the food, and they do what they want to do with it.” Here, Kidjo reveals the inspiration behind each track from Mother Nature.
“Choose Love” (feat. Shungudzo) “I decided to tell a story. When you write a book, you have an introduction. I wanted [the album] to flow like that. I want people to dance and think that they are able to dance on a ground that is not shaking and opening up for us to disappear in. I want that ground to be there for generations to come.”
“Dignity” [Angelique Kidjo & Yemi Alade] [Work on the album began following a charged phone call with Nigerian singer-songwriter Yemi Alade during the #EndSARS demonstrations held to call an end to Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad.] “I said [to Alade], ‘Get out of the street; get all your team, and get back to music. Let’s use music to address this issue. You were dignified in that street. You wanted something different, and the response was the police shooting at you.’ The only way is to sing and hope that those police people will listen to this and understand that their work is to protect civilians and that if they want that dignity back, they have to do something for the people that they’re against.”
“Africa, One of a Kind” “I received a message from Mr Eazi on DM. He said, ‘Mom, I have a song for you.’ I said, ‘Shoot away, send it.’ That [African blood] runs in our veins. All of us. It does not matter where you come from, we're all Africans. As long as we call ourselves Homo sapiens. Africa is the cradle of humankind. This is why every time somebody tries to say, ‘Go back home, you guys are savages,’ I say, ‘If we are savages, you are double savages…because that’s where you come from.”
“Mother Nature” “Here, Mother Earth saying to us, ‘Don't ever let them hurt you in any way. Never let them take the best of you. Keep on building cities from the ground.’ It's not like she's going to disappear one day. She's been warning us for as long as we've been messing with her. That's how generous Mother Nature is. So we need her. That's what I say. That's what I sing. We need each other.”
“Do Yourself” “We have to do what is right for ourselves. We can't just let everything fall apart and blame somebody else. How can we stand and think that somebody's going to come from outside and do something for us? It has never been like that. Every step of the way, everything we've got, we have to fight for it. And when we get it, we can see it. We just have to make it be better for everybody to be part of it. There’s something so crazy and infectious about all of Burna Boy’s grooves; they take your head from south to north, and that’s exactly what I like.”
“Meant for Me” (feat. Shungudzo) “This song takes you to a place where love is everywhere. Everything is possible. No struggle, no hassle, no hate. Mother Nature didn't give us any hate. We are meant for one another. Mother Earth is there for me as much as I'm there for you. It's a chain.”
“Omon Oba” “‘Omon Oba’ means ‘Sons of Kings.’ I wanted to do that song with a singer and guitarist from Benin, my country. That is a special Benin gang right there, talking about the fact that our fathers are kings and our mothers are queens. That we are all princes and princesses that are brought to this world to represent ourselves, our parents, our home, our nature in the world, at large in Mother Earth.”
“Free & Equal” “I wrote that song when all these racist riots started in Italy. I said to myself, ‘We as human beings, we are really good at writing words that are not followed by action. Writing declarations of independence and putting them on the front of the buildings, but all those things are just words. We are not living up to the task. We rather worship violence, division, and money instead of worshipping love and the arts.”
“Fired Up” (feat. Blue Lab Beats & Ghetto Boy) “The whole point of doing everything that I did was to open it to the diaspora at large. So those young African descendants from London, we had a discussion. I said, ‘This is the song. Go for it, take a run with it. Just have fun. I can fit in your world anytime.’ You cannot be doing this music, this art, or any arts, without generosity. Every piece that you do is a part of you that you give away. If you're not willing to do that, then you have nothing to do in any kind of art, period. I don't believe in anyone saying, ‘I'm distancing myself by my work.’ That's just bull, I don't believe in it at all.”
“Take It or Leave It” “With this song I want people to be dancing. I'm working and I'm dancing and I'm having fun. I can have a glass of wine running around in my house.”
“Mycelium” “I wanted a song in French because I speak French and also because I wanted this message to be understood by French people. Mycelium is a mushroom that is everywhere on the planet, beneath every forest. If they do not exist, we do not exist. Those tiny mushrooms are the ones keeping everyone alive.”
“One Africa (Indépendance Cha-Cha)” “The sample of the song was the anthem in the movement of independence in the ’60s in Africa. It was the song of hope when we took our freedom. We could finally make decisions for ourselves and decide for ourselves what our fate is. That’s why I name all the countries that became independent in the ’60s.”
“Flying High” “I wanted to finish with the line ‘Life is so beautiful.’ There are challenges everywhere. You fall and you rise again. That’s what I’m saying. It’s part of life. Not one person on this earth can tell me that they’ve never failed. That’s what success is: a succession of failures.”

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