Angelique Kidjo’s African Symphony Mesmerizes Lyon with a Melodic Journey Across the Continent

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For the European premiere of her new concert, African Symphony, in Lyon, southeastern France, the world-renowned artist Angelique Kidjo collaborated with conductor Christian Reif to lead the Lyon National Orchestra, guiding music lovers through a captivating journey across Africa.

The award-winning singer sought to pay homage to exceptional talents from the continent who have gifted the world their music across generations. The concert celebrated African legends such as Miriam Makeba and Fela Kuti, and contemporary stars including Burna Boy, Rema, and Nomcebo Zikode, all with a classical orchestral twist.

“It’s brilliant how Angelique makes her choices,” said the Bavaria-born musician, Christian Reif.

The acclaimed arranger Derrick Hodge worked on the orchestral arrangements, and Reif maintained close communication with him throughout the process. The 90-minute performance featured standout moments from the percussion and brass sections, which Reif noted with a smile.

“It’s fun to bridge the gap and collaborate with a western classical orchestra and more Afro-pop styles that Angelique writes and performs. Making an orchestra sound groovy and really tight is both a joy and a challenge,” Reif added.

This surprising element was eagerly anticipated by many spectators. A young man from Benin in the audience shared, “I have listened to Kidjo since I was a kid. My parents used to play her music at home. I’ve been living in Lyon for a few years, and when I heard she was going to perform here, I booked my ticket. The mix of African sonorities with classical music adds to the diversity. I’m sure the result will be very interesting, and the evening will be a great one.”

Angelique Kidjo performed with other artists on Wednesday, June 19. She sang ‘Folon’ by Malian icon Salif Keita with French-Israeli singer Yael Naim. Cape Verde’s Lura joined her to honor Cesária Évora, and Kidjo paid tribute to her late friend Manu Dibango by singing ‘Soul Makossa’ with his son James BKS.

The concert was attended by 2,500 people in the unique venue of the Roman theatre, an archaeological site that hosts the annual Les Nuits de Fourvière festival. This site, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, provided a historic and enchanting backdrop for an evening of musical celebration.

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