Sunday, March 30, 2008

World Beat Comes Alive At State Theatre

This post originally appeared in the March 31 issue of the Tompkins Weekly.

World Beat is going to come alive at the State Theatre on April 3, when Angelique Kidjo and Samite hit the stage. This promises to be an incredible night of music from two of the preeminent figures in world music—and may well be one of the most compelling shows in the State Theatre’s already great season.

Angelique Kidjo will headline the evening. Born in the West African nation of Benin in 1960, she was performing with her mother’s theater troupe by the age of six. At age 22, due to political conflicts in her homeland, she relocated to Paris and later to New York City. She still resides in New York today. While broadly speaking she is considered an African singer, her influences and music encompass a much broader palette.

Citing influences as wide ranging as Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, George Gershwin, Aretha Franklin, jazz, Caribbean, Latin, and Afropop, Kidjo brings it all together into her own unique musical style. It is at once homage to her influences, at the same time it carries them forward in a new direction. In Addition to her wide range of influences, Angelique Kidjo has performed with the likes of Branford Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Joss Stone, Vernon Reid, Buddy Guy, and Peter Gabriel—to name a few.

She has won a Grammy Award, NAACP Image award, and the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award for an “artist distinguished in the field of world music whose influence on the evolution of jazz and cultural crossover is widely recognized.” If you aren’t familiar with her work, a quick trip to or YouTube will provide you with songs and videos to check out.

Beyond her music she has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2002 and founded the Batonga Foundation which works to give African girls the opportunity to attend secondary school and higher education. In addition, she has been outspoken about the need to respond to the genocide in the Darfur.

Also on the bill is Samite Mulondo. Samite, originally from Uganda, now lives in Ithaca. The fact this amazing musician lives in Ithaca is further evidence of what an incredible music scene we are blessed with. Samite sings in his native language of Luganda. He accompanies himself by playing a variety of instruments including the kalimba (finger-piano), marimba (wooden xylophone), litungu (seven-stringed Kenyan instrument) and various flutes; traditional and western.

Like Ms. Kidjo, Samite is also active in humanitarian work. He is the founder of the not-for-profit Musicians for World Harmony, “whose mission is to enable musicians throughout the world to share their music to promote peace, understanding and harmony among peoples, with a special emphasis on the displaced or the distressed who could benefit most from the healing power of music.” To learn more about Samite please visit or

The concert starts at 8 PM and tickets can be purchased at the State Theatre Box office, online at, or by calling 27-STATE.


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