Voodoo Angel (Angélique Kidjo at WOMAD, Reading, 2006)

The last act on the last night and we’re there,
it’s colder now the rain at last has gone,
everyone is standing, tense with hope,
we want a big finale to finish the weekend –
we’ve heard some of the finest in the world,
we’re glutted but we still want something more.

Pink glitter trouser suit, crop-haired, compact –
even on the stage she isn’t tall –
the women in the crowd go mad with joy,
especially the three in front of us –
one of them could even be her sister
and she is only four foot six, if that.

And yet she has complete control,
the ambassadress from Africa
with the dignity that this conferred,
her voice is like a banner and a sword –
why are small women often very loud? –
she overwhelms the whole of this huge crowd.

Benin’s not-so-secret weapon flies,
taking Jimi’s anthem for her own,
not just because her singing has such power,
nor the fact that she’s become a star –
for now her soul is in her throat for sure
and like a lioness she roars it out.

She sings of love, of struggle and resistance
and everyone there understands it all
though few of us can recognise a word.
We stamp and dance and cheer and sing along
in that dark and dusty summer field
to celebrate her night of victory.

Compared to men with armour, bombs and guns
she looks so slight, when she comes down to join us,
a warrior armed, but only with a song,
a queen crowned with conviction, strength and passion
so deep and wide and raw and real and whole,
she shows us how we also might be strong.