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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Most superheroes use their powers for good. Now, the West African singer Angelique Kidjo may not wear a cape, but she sure has a super powerful voice. She says her mission is to use it for the good of humanity. That means working with UNICEF to bring attention to communities across Africa that have been devastated by hunger, disease and warfare. It also means making music that speaks to a global audience.

Angelique Kidjo's new CD, "Djin Djin," features duets with musicians from across the spectrum, including Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley, Joss Stone, and this, the title song, with Alicia Keys.

(Soundbite of song, "Djin Djin")

Ms. ANGELIQUE KIDJO (Musician): The thing I've been doing all my life is to prove that music is universal. It's the only language that links all of us together. It doesn't matter where you come from. It doesn't matter the color of skin that you have, which language you speak. Music just go right to the heart of our soul and make us see the truth or not. If you don't see the truth, it doesn't stay.

So I start reaching out to different artists and hoping that their schedule will work with mine. And I have to say that I was lucky that within the time that I reached out to everybody, everybody was willing to do it, and they had the time to do it when I reached out to them. And that's how it comes about.

And how that brings something to what I do is just to improve and emphasize the message that I've been saying for so many years, that we are one, for there's only one humanity, not two, and music is in our genes, in our history, in our past or present and our future.

(Soundbite of song, "Salala")

CHIDEYA: You are not just a musician but someone who also gives a lot back. And tell me more about the work that you've done and maybe a child that you've seen that is someone who means something to you through your experiences.

Ms. KIDJO: It's not only one child that I met that really played a big role in my life (unintelligible) I mean, when I'm speaking about children, I have faces that comes to my mind, when I'm talking on behalf of those children.

I met a girl in Ethiopia that lost her sister from HIV and AIDS and her parents too. She was orphaned, and the only thing left for her, from her family, is a painting that her sister that died painted. It was a painting of a child with tears in her eyes, where it was written (unintelligible) enough is enough. After (unintelligible) there shouldn't be anyone dying.

And she gave it to me, and that was the only thing she had. And I just burst in tears because I was so hopeless. I mean, I didn't know what to do, what to say. But yet she trusted me to find an answer, to find a solution for them and to speak for them.

(Soundbite of song, "Salala")

CHIDEYA: That's a lot to carry with you. How do you put those experiences into your music, or do you not?

Ms. KIDJO: Without the music I don't think I can adjust to any other places in the world. And that's what I learned from those children, is the hope and the strength that they have. They never give up. So who am I to give up? When I'm living the life I'm living, I can't give up. All I can do is not to forget them, to do everything I can with UNICEF and with any other human being out there that is willing to help.

So music is the only thing really that helps me represent them, talk for them and heal myself and give the strength and hope to people. I don't want people to feel depressed. I want people to listen to my music and to feel empowered, loved, for them to go outside of themselves and make the change that they need to make.

(Soundbite of song, "Mama Golo Papa")

CHIDEYA: Some of your songs deal with family, like "Mama Golo Papa." Am I pronouncing that right?

Ms. KIDJO: Yes.

CHIDEYA: Tell us about that song and why you put it on the album.

Ms. KIDJO: "Mama Golo Papa" is a song that I wrote after they broadcast this terrorist woman that blazed herself up. And I was imagining how forcefully she was that she would not listen to her husband. She will not listen to nobody. What can bring somebody that give life to take her own life and other people's life? That is something that I cannot understand. One thing that I cannot ever understand and accept is that people are using God's name to kill - that's what this song is about.

(Soundbite of song, "Mama Golo Papa")

CHIDEYA: How do you feel about being this face of Africa, this strong, sexy, intelligent, creative, African woman who is - you have a very striking figure that you cut in the world.

Ms. KIDJO: It's a lot of responsibility, because that doesn't make me liked by everybody, because there a lot of things that you don't want to hear that I come and talked about for my people, for my continent. I know that I have a lot of responsibility. I have to be careful of what I say. But you know, when you're an African woman, and by extension an African person, people don't expect you to be articulate and to speak about some issues. They label you political person because when you're a woman, first of all, in Africa - in some part of Africa - you don't speak.

And I find myself speaking for the youth of Africa, for the children of Africa, and for the women and the men of Africa, which is a huge - believe me - a huge responsibility, because I don't even - I don't only speak beautifully about it; when I'm there also I tell my people also the truth, because if we have problem, we have some responsibility to a certain extent that we have to face and find the solution for ourselves.

And also, if we want people outside to respect us, we have to have the courage to face some of our problem, and really go thoroughly through it and really deal with it. So how I feel? I feel blessed. I feel humble. I feel overwhelmed sometime, but I feel a lot of responsibility.

CHIDEYA: Well, Angelique, we wish you the best in all of the different things that you do. Thanks for sharing some time with us.

Ms. KIDJO: Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of song, "Lonlon (Ravel's Bolero)")

CHIDEYA: Angelique Kidjo's new CD is called "Djin Djin."

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