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Grammy winner Kidjo says art ‘humanises’ Davos

Beninese-French singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo says 'there's no economy and no politics without arts'
Beninese-French singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo says 'there's no economy and no politics without arts' - Copyright AFP MARCO LONGARI
Beninese-French singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo says 'there's no economy and no politics without arts' - Copyright AFP MARCO LONGARI

Five-time Grammy winner and African music legend Angelique Kidjo says she attends the annual meeting of global elites in Davos because “bringing art to it humanises” the World Economic Forum.

AFP sat down with Kidjo, a UNICEF ambassador and singer who performs in her in native Fon and Yoruba languages as well as in French and English, for an interview in the Swiss Alpine resort.

The following has been edited for length and flow:

– Why did you come to Davos? –

“I think that there’s no economy and no politics without arts. Culture is at the centre of every developed society. I’ve been coming here because we have to come and break the mould that we put in place. Economy, politics, art: all of them are linked. But through music, and through art, you make people dream of a better world. Here at Davos, I think bringing art to it humanises Davos. Most of the conferences around the world, you don’t have art at all in the centre of it. You spend time talking, talking, talking and what you talk about is within this bubble that you are in. It is not having any impact on people’s lives, like music does.”

“A human being is not just about economy. When you remove the emotion part of the human being, you are left with a zombie. As a musician, right, you have a role to play. Taylor Swift is one of the (artists who are) really bringing people together. Here I am in (the) presence of leaders, of economists, of great brains that need to understand — and I want art to be also part of the decision-making. If we don’t invest in culture, we create a society of anger.”

– There was a lot of talk about AI in Davos. Will it have a positive or negative impact on the world? –

“We are at the beginning of AI right now. So we still are in the moment where we can avoid the mistake we made with other platforms. When you create something, and if you think when you’re creating it that it is going to hurt your child or anybody, you won’t do it.

“For me, technology should be used to unify the world for us to get rid of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism. But are we willing to do that? The temptation to make money is more important than moral value. That’s the problem we have. We need to be really careful: what we put in ChatGPT has to be for the betterment of humanity. If we don’t do that and we start having unemployment, there is no more society, we’re going to blow up every society. We can’t just replace human beings by machines, no way. I’m not saying that technology’s bad. Technology is good, but we have to put safeguards in there.”

– Your work outside music focuses on women’s rights, yet in Davos this week the new Argentine president, Javier Milei, condemned abortion rights. Do you remain hopeful in light of attacks on rights you have fought for? –

“I don’t lose hope. Men that talk like that, they are cowards. We don’t want those kind of leaders. Don’t pay attention to them and don’t give them any platform to demolish what we have.”

“We want men on our side that believe in our right to be equal, to make choices for our own body. This is our body, after all. We don’t tell them what to do with their body.”

– Are you concerned about Donald Trump winning the US election? –

“We say in my country, you cannot save a child that wants to burn his hand in the fire. He has to burn himself and see what it is.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now I can’t do any prediction. I just hope that people in America are smart enough to know what is good for the country. I can’t talk on behalf of Americans.”

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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