“Batonga”

“Batonga”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Angélique Kidjo
“Batonga”

Written and Recorded by Angélique Kidjo

The inspiration for this song started way back when I was going to school in my country of Benin in West Africa. Two of my girlfriends and I went to school together — we were different sizes, very different types of people but the boys taunted all of us to keep us from school. When I went home and told my father, he said, “Don’t get angry, you’re smart. Be smarter than they are. Don’t let them drag you down the alley.”

So I made up the word “batonga” and told my friends that every time the boys bothered us, we must each say the word “batonga.” That’s exactly what we did and it drove them crazy because we wouldn’t tell them what it meant and acted as if they should know. In my mind it meant, “Leave me alone. I can be whoever I want to be.”

The song is about a girl with big dreams who wouldn’t allow anyone to help her. She believed that “you can do as you please regardless of what anyone tells you.” The girl in the song is in a rich person’s house but doesn’t envy them because they have no soul — all they have is their money. She is poor but has spirit and determination. Roughly translated the song says, Beautiful child, you are so poor but you dance like a princess and you do as you please, angering the rich people in the village.

You must be positive and find the resource inside of you to accomplish what you want and bring light to darkness. My father was a great example. He felt that the greatest wealth he could give his children was education. He also taught us that hate, violence and anger accomplish nothing. You must love even your enemy or you’ll never accomplish anything.

He taught us that neither skin color nor social status nor religion defines a person and that we should never use that as an excuse for failure. He had a zero tolerance policy for racism.

As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, I have campaigned for primary education throughout the world. However, if we don’t send students to secondary school, we lose the momentum. I’ve named my foundation the Batonga Foundation. Its mission is to further secondary education for girls in Africa. I want highly educated women to change life in Africa and beyond.

“Batonga”

Mmmmmh.…

Mmmmmh.…

Ovi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan nanbaketh

Novi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan nanbaketh

Batonga

Yapat’cha galwadadeh lwo

Batonga

Ankwinla djina remi (na)

Mmmmmh.…

Mmmmmh.…

Ovi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan nanbaketh

Novi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan nanbaketh

Batonga

Yapat’cha galwadadeh lwo

Batonga

Ankwinla djina remi (na)

Lile gogoto wemak kwon

Lilia limeto wemak kwon

Batonga

Batonga

Baton’

Batonga

Batonga

Ovi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan nanbaketh

Novi yabada dadeh

Ovi vanvan eloho

Batonga

Yapat’cha galwadadeh lwo

Batonga

Ankwinla djina remi na

Lile gogoto wemak kwon

Lilia limeto wemak kwon

Batonga

Batonga

Baton’

Batonga

Batonga

Mmmmmh.…

Mmmmmh.…

Eha ahe aghete

Eha ghete ahe aghete

Lyrics and Music by Angélique Kidjo. © Kidjo, Angélique/Hebrail, Jean Louis Pierre Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Photo credit Joshua Jordan

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