"That song, for me, was the turning point in Africa, where an African lady could have a planet — a heap on the planet — 'Pata Pata' was a song known everywhere 'till today."
Kidjo recalled that when she began singing as a young girl in Bénin, "it's very difficult for society to accept you as a modern performer, not a traditional singer. So, when you're doing modern music, what the elderly people in my country call 'the instrument of evil' — drums, guitar, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll hit Africa big-time — you're a junky, or you are a prostitute."
As Kidjo explained, "Miriam Makeba came in and proved to me that you can be an African woman, have a career and be a respectable woman. That is why 'Pata Pata' is really important for me, because it's always there in my brain."
"It's always a pleasure for me to listen to it, still today … because the topic is universal. What are we, and what can we do with our friends that we can count on, and with our family. It doesn't matter how hard life is, you always have to believe that tomorrow is gonna be better," Kidjo said.
"If you let the problem, the circumstances of life, beat you down … then you go downhill. And to come back up is very difficult."
Her mantra? "Never, ever give up, because you don't know what the next half hour holds; by extension, the next year," she said. "Every moment is important. If you can have music that can lift your spirit, grab it, do it. That's the power of music that no one else has — no politicians have that power. You don't listen to a politician's speech and go around going, 'I'm going to be happy … no. But music does that to you."
Angélique Kidjo will perform Dec. 1 at the World AIDS Day Concert.