Starring Angélique Kidjo
Conceived by Angélique Kidjo, Jean Hebrail, and Naïma Hebrail Kidjo
Book and Lyrics by Naïma Hebrail Kidjo
Music by Angélique Kidjo and Jean Hebrail
Developed with and Directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce
Kerry James Marshall, production designer
In Angélique Kidjo’s new music-theater work Yemandja, mortals and gods, kings and villains navigate the perils and pitfalls of the slave trade in 19th-century Dahomey, the West African kingdom that once occupied the land that is now Kidjo’s birthplace of Benin. Kidjo, Cal Performances’ 2021/22 season artist-in-residence, left Benin for Paris in her 20s, refusing to use her music as propaganda to prop up that country’s dictatorship.
Anchored by songs performed by Kidjo with a full cast of musicians, singers, dancers, and actors, Yemandja is a hybrid of family drama and historical thriller, infused with themes of love, betrayal, honor, and destiny, set against the backdrop of the horrors and injustices of slavery.
There is perhaps no one better suited to explore these complex and resonant issues than Kidjo, a genre- and border-crossing artist and activist fluent across multiple languages and cultures. She is a recipient of both the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.