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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  August 6, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. an evening with angelique kidjo, has both a new cd out called "eve," inspired by humanitarian work in kenya as well as an auto biography entitled "spiert rising." we are glad you joined us. conversation with angelique kidjo coming up right now.
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with 13 albums to her credit, grammymy winner angelique kidjo has established herself as one of the world's premiere singer song writers often working with musicians from diverse disciplines to forge her message of cooperation and collaboration. her latest cd is called "eve" and is a tribute to the perseverance of the women of africa. she is also the author of a new text, an autobiography called "spirit rising: my life, my
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music." first let's take a look at a song from the cd titled "eva." ♪ ♪ >> a tribute to the women of africa. i think i get that. but tell me more. tell me why. >> well, most of the time when it comes to african women, black women, it's always about bad stuff and we never seem to be
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people that have joy, family, empowerment. and i didn't grow up with women that live in misery. i grew up with very strong women. both of my grandmother and my mother, my aunties and all the women i meet during my trip with unicef, they are just so resilient. they're just so beautiful that sometimes i'm like, why don't the world come to see this? we have so much to learn from them. >> tell me more about what you think. i agree with you, but tell me more about what you think it is that we in the american empire have to learn from the women of africa. >> what we have to learn from the women of africa is that every day is worth living. it doesn't matter what challenge you face. the most important thing is when you fall, how you rise. and how high you want to go. where you want to go from that rise on. are you gonna linger on the pain of the past or are you gonna move forward? and it's always that. from the moment they wake up in the morning, it doesn't matter how much the day's gonna be hard, what happened yesterday. they just move forward, thinking
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how are we gonna make this day special, different from the last day and different from other days. that's one thing we have to learn from the african women. >> what is it about certain women in africa? and i hear your point earlier that you were not raised by women who live lives of misery. but it is difficult trying to navigate life every day in certain parts of the continent. and i know you want to argue that point. so for those persons who find it to be more of a struggle most days, the joy in living is what? the motivation to keep doing it is what? >> the motivation to keep doing it is the future is always going to be better. one of the experiences that i've been through that is part of the book is that i took -- a couple of years ago, i made a trip to the chad refugee camp from the women from darfur. and we met 23 women. and one after the other, the horror stories that had been through to end up in that camp was just appalling.
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i mean, when i wanted to just disappear, vanish sbchlt that experience has impact my sleep till today. but one thing that i see before i left, they say to us, we're already a victim of the situation that we doentd choose. whatever you come out of here to do for us, don't victimize us twice. all we're asking from you is to do everything in your capacity for the peace to be reinstated in our country, for safety and security to exist for us to be able to raise the children that we have to get a life. and that is something that every day i'm in a difficult situation, i want to linger on. i just think of those women. they have lost everything. they're being raped constant by people. their little boy beheaded on the breast of the mother. i mean, the horror story goes on and on. and yet here they are within the tears of their eyes looking at you in your eyes and telling you, don't make me a victim a second time. as a woman i tell you my story because i know that so we can
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impact other women. but all we have to remember is life is worth living. don't let anyone define you from what you live through and everything that they think you stand for. just be proud of who you are. it doesn't matter. >> tell me why it is or how it is, angelique, that your personal story -- i mean, we'll talk about it. your story, your life in the book "spirit rising," because we talk so many times, been friends for so many years i know your own story of having to leave the continent. give me some sense of why it is that -- or how it is that you have not been embittered but given your own story, your desire to go back to hear these stories and to try to make us respond to those stories. >> well, i cannot be bitter because i was not raised in a family where bitterness has any space. because my mom and dad always said, "speak. speak up your mind. we ain't god. we can't read your brain. let's get together with the problem you have and find a solution to it and if we can't find a solution to it, leave of
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it. go, move forward. tomorrow is always better. if." if you have that philosophy and you have a strong spirit, i don't care what people think about me. i've learned this since i was 12 years old when my fwrand mother told me, "don't let anyone define and decide for your fate what you do that makes you happy and that makes your family, the people that love you, their opinion counts more than anybody out there that is putting a category on you or defining you according to the old phantasmal." so for me the point of view of my life i've been impacted by women that taught me that as a woman my body is a sanctuary. that whoever i invite in my body i have to be clear that invitation. if no is a no is a no, you fight to your last breath for that no to be understood. don't say you are a victim if you let somebody manipulate you.
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from that moment you are clear in your vision of yourself and you protect that vision in your family your community and your world, that's all that matters. i know where i come from, tavis. i don't where i'm going. really we don't know what the next half hour hold. but we are if we don't control, if we don't embody that and we are not proud we don't stand proud in our shoes, we always be fooled of people. our stories have been told by others. our story, our identity, our image has been set up by other people that tell our story for us because of the power that gives them to tell our story and to define us and put us in a category. i refuse to sit in fib's box. i refuse for anyone to tell me who i am because i know who i am. >> tell me how the strength of that spirit has defined your music. you say as powerfully as you do that you were taught, don't let them define you, don't let them box you, categorize you.
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that is the statement that's true of the life that you live but also it's just as true as the music that you produce, you don't get boxed in, you don't get categorized, you don't get defined. it's all these beautiful collaborations in all different kinds of genres. >> yeah because music give me that freedom. music is a universal language. my father told me do not come back to this house and tell me you failed because you're black because that's the last time you use that word in this house. your color doesn't define your brain nor your soul. can you stand next to any human being and challenge that person as long as you use your brain. and if you love music you have to be the one that opens doors. you have to be the one that build bridge on which everybody can be free to walk on. i know that's my mission. and music, for me has been my breath. my backbone since i was a little kid. anything that comes to my life, hard time or good time, i always find comfort in music. and, therefore, i am a storyteller with my music. and my story, nobody gonna tell
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it for me. the story of those women that i'm talking about on this album, they give me permission to tell those stories. i want their face to be seen, their voice to be heard because those women are the one that is nourish my inspiration and my strength. this whole concept started when i took a trip a year and a half ago. i was in kenya with unicef. we were tackling the problem of stunting. stunting is cute malnutrition of a newborn baby and it's a problem. the head of unicef call it silencing them. and it's true. it's happening in our society where you don't have the means to put the right nutrient food on the table. what it does, it damages permanently the brain of a child, which mean the workforce, the person then cannot. economically, it just impacts our countries and the whole world economy. and i arrive at that place dealing with those women. the first village was just dreadful. i was just like -- i want to scream off my head. and you arrive in the second village and you see those women with that pause, that joy in their eyes, that smile, living
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with nothing pretty much. and they start singing to me and i have shivers all over my body and my heart start beating. and i just felt i am more powerful than anybody else. i have been empowered by those women in that voice and that's why i believe and i went to the women in different vilgs. i mean, just talking about it, i want to cry because they just embrace me. they're like this is a dream come true to us. we've nourished you all this music and you take it everywhere. you talk so gracefully about us. we never dreamed that one day we would be singing with you. i say you better believe it, because i have to give back and i'm going to come back and you're going to give me more. and with that, the conversation from music. first of all, i play the music and they look at me like are you kidding? we're going to sing that? i say you're going to. so i sing to them and sing the song with them. after a while i remove the music
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and they're like take it over trying to stop a fast train. they won't stop. i'm like, okay, i have it. they're like, uh-huh, we're going to have too much fun in there. and from the music we start talking about family, how they want the girls to go to school. they start talking about their concern about sex because sex is a taboo subject. women don't have a say in sexual intercourse with their husband, their partner. and i'm like i'm not going to deal with all this here. how am i going to deal with it? and they say yes, you know you can give us some hips here and there. i say, no, be yourself. don't be afraid of your partner. your partner is not -- you shall not his thing. talk to him. they say we can't. i say you can. don't be afraid. >> spoken like a true woman who lives in brooklyn. >> i go do that. >> i'll tell him. i'll tell that -- >> come on. yeah, you're going to have to do this. it's joyful not painful. >> when you have those kind of
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encounters, how do you, as a unicef ambassador, how do you leave the continent repeatedly and not be burdened by that? what you do is take those stories and turn it into music because that's the gift that you have to share with all of us. but how do you not end up burdened by that? >> i'm not burdened about it because the people that i'm helping, that i'm working with, are not burdened about it. they know that is their life, right? and sometimes the women say, we will not change our life for nobody else because we have our children here. and as hard as it is, when we smiles on the face of our children, it's worth millions. so am i to pity them? they don't want to be pitied. they don't want to be helped above what they decide to do. they want to help african people. how can you help african people without their input in it? you cannot transform the society of people if they are not part of the change. so for me, burden is not part of
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it. it's how we talk together and how do we find solution together. >> you don't have very many critics. everybody seems to love you. i certainly do. but for those critics that you do have, who think in your music and other aspects you've become westernized -- because i mention earlier, you've been living in brooklyn for a while. how do you respond to those critics who say, in your music specifically, you've become too westernized? >> well the music from the western world comes from where? i ask them that. you want us african artists to be a piece of museum? we don't have the right to modernity? how society has evolved. the traditional music of my ancestors are not ones we play today. it has to reflect our time. it has to reflect the eve lugs of the family. we're not just stuck in a piece of wood or something. i mean, people just -- the phantasm of people about africa is something that is denying us to move forward. that's why we want to come in and rape africa in his
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resources. it's okay for a westerner to come and take the music from africa and make it and sell it. and they say coup cool. but it's not cool. i come to africa and being an african woman. can you imagine me bringing james brown music to the village and they play the drum and they kill it? no, i refuse. i don't care. i am who i am. and i will live the way i want and decide to live. it's not easy what i'm saying. the music business is male dominated. when you're a woman and you're an african on top of it, forget t you have to stand for something or you fall for everything.
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i want to look at myself in the mirror at the end of my life and say i've done my share and i'm proud of what i've done. nobody can take that aaway from me. they don't like it, i don't force anybody to listen to my music. blues come from africa, rock 'n' roll come from africa. you listen to -- everywhere you go, africa is there. r & b, hip hop, bring it. gu to africa. just go and remove all banner that is you have in your head and go to the village, from one to the other. if you don't tread the roots of the modern music in africa, then there's no hope for that music at all. >> as tough as the music business is, male dominated, yes. if you're a black woman, another challenge. if you're an african woman -- >> another challenge. >> i get that. and yet everybody and their mama wants to collaborate with you. >> i love that. >> tell me why that is. i love it, too, but why is that? how is that? you collaborated with everybody in this country and around the
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globe. >> i collaborate with people because their music talk to me as much as mine talk to them. and one thing that i learn, since i with his a child and i started asking questions -- because my nickname is when, why, how? ooh i never get enough. in my village, as soon as i come out, they go, don't ask questions. that's a deal. and i say yes and i start requesting questions. if you don't answer me, how do i know? so basically i grew up asking questions. i mean, as an african child living in a poor family, in a poor country and having access to so much music -- because my father decided that's what we're going to do. we're going to have to listen to music and realize that the world doesn't stop at the doorstep of this house that. we have challenges to face when we leave this house. and my mom deeply believed that too. when she put me at 6 years old, she said you've got to be naked spiritually to touch people's
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souls. god gave you talent for something. go ahead and touch people. >> be naked spiritually? >> absolutely. >> i love that. >> and for me, physically, that is what it is about. what are you there for? i say if you're on stage and you're more concerned about your dress, and then you think that the public is accessory, you got no -- you got nothing to do there. i mean, you can't just do that. it's just -- you give because that music is something that is the bedrock of humanity. and i don't care how people like it or not. i don't want anybody to be hurt. i want everybody to be happy. because if you're happy, you are more open to other people. don't let misery bring you down. smile. my father always say you wake up in the morning and you start smiling, your day's going to get better. can you meet anybody out there that challenge you for many different things. smile back.
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even the most racist person make a very painful racial comment give him a smile. he's just stupid. you see what i mean? >> see all of this explains why when i see you in concert you don't stop smiling and you won't stand still on the stage. >> why should i stand still? i'm alive. come on, baby. i got to be moving everywhere. >> i love that life line and i'm going to use that, too. you give me gifts every time. that line that the audience is not an accessory. >> it's not zblch that's a cold line. but there are so many -- i be ain't going to call no names on tv. but i'm a music lover. i felt like that, where the audience was just an accessory. >> not me. i give you two or three songs and i'll be like, show me your guts. show me your guts. by the third song, you don't show me your guts, i'm out of
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there. i don't have time for that. i don't want to be dirtied by your ego. for me, music is always you have to be at the service of the song. if you're not, then your inspiration is not truth. everything you do is to please people. because today music is out there. it becomes a commodity and it becomes the commodity that people transform the way they want to do it. they can cut your song, do whatever they want. we artists is like we're just there to make other people reach and then they just snatch it away from us. fine. but you ain't going to snatch my spirit away from me. who i am, the music i do, is mine. so when i invite people on my album they go, okay, what is up in there? i remember steve jordan. at one point the song "orisha" i call him back, come on, steve. i want the women singing, the whole drum thing. how are we going to do that? he come up and he goes,
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angelique, which market are you targeting? i said don't ask me that. i ain't targeting no market. he said why are you going to with this rhythm of yours? you can play it, right? i don't know about this i say, sit down. and he get on the drums. i look at him, duh. you play the one thing, one take. what do you care for? all right. you always make me sweat. christian and steve together they listen to them like is this for real? those talented people like that? they're having fun looking at me like where did you come up with those things? i said the rhythm come from my country. i just use it. >> that's not the first time you heard that question, what market are you going for? >> yeah. >> you ain't going to for no market. i'm telling my truth. >> absolutely. >> it ain't no market. >> i don't know which market. human beings market.
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>> exactly. this book speaking of your spirit "spirit rising: my life, my music," everybody loves it. peter gabriel, dez monday tutu, everybody loves what you have written here. but at this point in your life why did you want to write an autobiography? >> you remember when my father pass add way. >> >> i remember that. your mother is still here. >> oh, my mom -- >> what, is she 87 now? >> alive and cook. oh, my bod! jesus christ you never take my mom to club. she will shame the heck out of you. >> at 87? >> what? my daughter grandma's cane in her third leg. she walks so fast. where are you going, mom? >> her cane is her third leg. >> she loves music so much. so when i decide to write this book right after the funeral of my father because there's so much stuff going on in my head and everybody i meet, i'll be
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talking about my father. and a friend of mine said by yourself a camera, sit in front of it and talk, talk like you're talking to your father. so i started doing that and then i had been approached to write a book about my journey from africa all the way to america. that comes in handy. because we have to tribe it, translate it. and suddenly i'm like this is the moment to tell this story. this is the moment to tell a story in the world where we are losing dwround ground, where individuals are not longer important. we are just seen as collateral damage of consequence medication, consumption. you go to -- when you have a headache, you go buy -- you don't even have time to sit and think what do i need? do i really need this? what can i do for myself and somebody else to have a sense of my life? so telling my story is to empower people to believe in their own power. we have so much power individually. collectively, we put that power together.
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no one ever will be able to tell us what to do. >> i was not surprised when i got the book from angelique kidjo because consistent with who she, there are about 150 illustrations in the book. it's vibe rant to look at much less to read. >> my grandmother, my father's mother. >> this is your dprand mother? >> tas a tough cookie. >> just the photo alone -- >> you see that face? she's laughing. she is smiling like come on. you come to my turf. i'll show you. >> it's quite a book. it's called "spirit rising: my life, my music" by angelique kidjo. and the new cd "eve" is just busy as always. you look gorgeous. >> i look gorgeous because sheila makes me gorgeous. she's the best. >> she helps. >> she gave me all those thips. i want to go back and start using it. i'm tell iing you, man.
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>> but she didn't make all that, though. >> no, but it's like, okay, i'm going back. i cannot do straight lines. outside in. okay, girlfriend. >> now she giving you makeup here? >> mmm, mmm, mmm. >> angelique is too much. now you're giving her makeup tips. >> so hard nobody could look at it anymore. i'm going to be begging everybody on the floor. >> that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching, as always. keep the faith. >> announcer: for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. part one of a conversation for mel brooks, one of the funniest men alive. that's next time. we'll see you then. irks
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