Brooklyn (New York), USA – Afropop Worldwide will celebrate its 20th Anniversary during its Hall of Fame Gala on March 4, 2009 at the Tavern on the Green in Manhattan’s Central Park. This year’s inductees to Afropop’s Hall of Fame are the legendary Harry Belafonte and Grammy-Award winning artist Angelique Kidjo. The Gala, which benefits the work of Afropop, will be a celebratory evening filled with dinner and dance, awards and multi-media presentation, music by the Mandingo Ambassadors, and a special performance from the cast of the recent off-Broadway hit, Fela.
Of his upcoming honor, Mr. Belafonte says, "I’m very happy to share the Afropop Hall of Fame honors with Miss Angelique Kidjo, and with Afropop. The Afropop organization continually amazes me with the depth of their knowledge about contemporary African music and their skill in translating that knowledge into enjoyable and insightful programming. I wish them all the best as they move forward into the next 20 years."
Inductees of the Afropop Hall of Fame are chosen for their artistic excellence and their significant role in connecting Americans to Africa. Also honored are individuals who have been especially helpful in advancing Afropop’s mission. The Afropop Hall of Fame now includes Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck, Oumou Sangare, Habib Koité, Vusi Mahlasela, the Mahotella Queens, Dorothy Masuka, Thomas Mapfumo, Dobet Gnahore, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Josh Mailman and Bonnie Raitt.
Sean Barlow, the creator and producer of Afropop Worldwide, says, “For Georges Collinet, the whole Afropop team, and myself, looking back on 20 years of Afropop, the first people to thank of course are the artists themselves—past Hall of Fame inductees, as well as artists throughout the continent and the Diaspora—Gilberto Gil, Khaled, Franco, Ali Farka Touré, King Sunny Ade, David Rudder, Los Van Van, Brenda Fassie, Fela Kuti, Susana Baca, Jaojoby and many more. It has been our great honor and pleasure to interview these brilliant artists at their homes and to record them in their nightclubs and then to share their stories and what we think is the best music on the planet with music fans back home and around the world. With much anticipation we look forward to honoring Harry Belafonte and Angelique Kidjo, both of whom are one-of-a-kind artists and who both share a passion for creating a more just and humane world for all.”
Harry Belafonte is an American icon of vast and varied accomplishments. In choosing Mr. Belafonte as a Hall of Fame inductee, Afropop particularly honors his tireless dedication to promoting African music and culture, and his outspoken work as a critic of injustice, social activist, and human rights advocate. As the U.N.’s official Ambassador to Africa, Mr. Belafonte has been a champion for peace on the continent. One of the most successful recording artists in music history, and a critically and commercially successful actor, he was the first African-American to receive an Emmy, and the first artist to record a million-selling album. He has received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Medal of Arts. He is currently working on a multi-part documentary entitled Sing Your Heart that is set for theatrical and television release. He is also currently recording music for the documentary, material which will have a separate release.
Angelique Kidjo remembers, “When I grew up in Benin, West Africa, my dad used to play on his banjo and sing for me some of Harry Belafonte’s music. So this will be a great honor for me to be honored along with him by the Afropop organization which has helped spread the word on the beauty of contemporary African music for the last 20 years.”
Kidjo has been a champion in building cultural bridges between Americans and Africa. Originally from Benin, West Africa, Kidjo is a highly charismatic singer, composer, performer, and political activist who has mesmerized audiences and touched people around the world. Ms. Kidjo is also a prolific recording artist who has collaborated with some of the world’s leading musicians, including Carlos Santana, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis and many others. Kidjo founded the Batonga Foundation, which gives African girls a secondary school and higher education so they can take the lead in changing Africa . When asked why she chose music to deliver her message, Kidjo said, “music is a healer and a unifier. It breaks all barriers between different ‘nations.’”
Afropop Worldwide celebrates 20 years of excellence in connecting Americans to Africa to the world. Founded by Sean Barlow in 1988, Afropop is now an internationally acclaimed, multi-media organization promoting the recognition and enjoyment of musical artists and cultures in Africa and the African Diaspora. The flagship public radio program, Afropop Worldwide, is hosted by broadcast personality Georges Collinet of Cameroon and distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) to over 100 radio stations in the U.S. (and on Radio New York 91.5 FM Mon-Sat @ 11 PM). It can also be streamed on-demand at www.afropop.org.