“African Symphony”: when classical music meets African legendary hits

For the European premiere of her new concert African Symphony in Lyon south-eastern France, world renowned artist Angelique Kidjo tasked conductor Christian Reif with leading the Lyon National Orchestra and guiding music-lovers through a melodic journey across Africa.

The award-winning singer seeks to pay homage to exceptional talents from the continent who have gifted the world their music throughout generations.

“It’s brilliant how Angelique makes her choices,” the Bavaria born musician says.

The Beninese diva took on the challenge to celebrate African legends like Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti and stars from the younger generation that includes Burna Boy, Rema, Nomcebo Zikode and Nomcebo Zikode with a classical orchestral twist.

Acclaimed arranger Derrick Hodge worked on the arrangements and Reif was in touch with him.

During the 90-minutes long performance, the “percussion section” and “the brass section” are those that shine the most, Reif said all smiles.

“It’s fun to breach the gap and to collaborate western classical orchestra with more afro pop more pop that angelique writes and performs; so to make an orchestra sound groovy and sound really tight that is both the joy and the challenge.”

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This is surprising element that many spectators were looking for.

“I am from Benin and Kidjo is an artist to whom I have listened to since I was a kid,” a young man in the audience said.

“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 orchestra adds to the diversity I mean, the mix African sonorities to classical music. I’m sure the result will be very interesting, I’m sure the evening will be a great one.”

Angelique Kidjo performed with other artists on Wednesday (Jun. 19).

She sang ‘Folon’ by Malian icon Salif Keita with French Israeli singer Yael Naim.

Cape Verde’s Lura joined her to honour Cesária Évora. She also paid tribute to her late friend Manu Dibango when singing Soul Makossa with his son James BKS.

The 2,500 people attended the concert in a unique venue, the Roman theatre. Indeed, the archaeological site which is made up of two major monuments which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site hosts every year the Les Nuits de Fourvière festival.