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African diva Angelique Kidjo wins Songlines Best Artist award

Benin singer Angelique Kidjo performs during the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Benin singer Angelique Kidjo performs during the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - African diva Angelique Kidjo was named Best Artist in Songlines magazine's annual world music awards on Friday, lauded for her high-energy shows and her championing of social causes.

French veterans Lo'jo, who mix French folk with African and Arabic sounds, picked up the Best Group award and the young Zimbabwean band Mokoomba was chosen as top Newcomer.

The Best Cross Cultural-Collaboration went to Dub Colossus for the blend of Ethiopian roots, reggae and dub beats on their latest album "Dub Me Tender Vol. 1+2".

Kidjo, originally from Benin, is one of Africa's biggest singing stars. Over the years she has worked with Prince, sang at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and sold out New York's Carnegie Hall.

The Best Artist award was given for her live "Spirit Rising" album but was also recognition of her career achievements, Songlines editor-in-chief Simon Broughton told Reuters.

"She's been around a long time but she's always inspiring," he said. "What clinched it was a concert she gave in London in March for Women's Day. It was breathtaking. I've never seen her so exuberant. She bonds people and really makes it special."

Kidjo, 52, has adopted the mantle of the late South African singer Miriam Makeba as a political voice and campaigns for women's rights and education in Africa.

"The award is also for what she stands for," Broughton said.

Lo'jo, from southwest France, has also been around a long time and the band's latest album, "Cinema el Mundo", showed them to be as strong as ever.

"They are much better known in the Francophone world than elsewhere. They've not been tempted to become more mainstream," Broughton said.

"They are a quality act, an unusual, interesting group, especially in their connections with West and North Africa."

YOUNG BANDS AND FANS

The Newcomer winner, Mokoomba, is a young group from Zimbabwe but the horn-driven music is pan-African, bringing in the sounds of Congo, South Africa and other countries. Its "Rising Tide" album sealed the award.

Dub Colossus' award was recognition of its work over the past 10 years in popularizing Ethiopian music and blending it with modern beats.

"It's risen from being unknown to something hip and really getting an audience. There's a lot of people fusing Ethiopian and Western sounds so they represent a wide movement and are bringing in a lot of young people," Broughton said.

World music has had mixed fortunes in the past year.

The live scene was still healthy, with a host of performers filling venues in London and elsewhere, Songlines publisher Paul Geoghegan said.

But the recording scene was very difficult for artists, record labels and distributors due to the closure of record stores and declining CD sales. The collapse of British chain HMV, whose shops stocked a wide variety of world music, was a big blow, he said.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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