Famous Songs About Africa

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Famous Songs About Africa

Many international stars have turned their attention to the continent, and taken it upon themselves to write and sing about glorious Africa.

Africa by Toto

Released in 1982, Toto’s Africa remains one of the band’s most recognisable songs. The initial idea came from David Paich, who wanted to tell the story of a white boy trying to write a song about Africa, but had never been there. The song’s catchy beat backs up memorable lyrics – “I bless the rains down in Africa” – and shows the writer’s desire to visit one day: “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you!”

Under African Skies by Paul Simon

After listening to a tape of The Boyoyo Boys, a South African band that was introduced to him by Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon was inspired to create his album, Graceland. The album was controversial, as Simon travelled to South Africa in 1985 to record the instrumental tracks, in direct violation of the United Nations cultural boycott of the apartheid state. Under African Skies focuses not on the political controversy, but on the similarities of places as disparate as Tucson, Arizona, and those in Africa.

Radio Africa by Latin Quarter

The little-known British band Latin Quarter reached chart success with its 1985 single, Radio Africa. The somewhat light tone of the melody does not hide the political nature of the song that talks about “hearing only bad news from Radio Africa,” as the band goes on to mention a variety of conflicts from the continent, ranging from war to famine, to oppression by Robert Mugabe to foreign investment and colonisation. 

Diamonds from Sierra Leone by Kanye West

Kanye West recorded Diamonds from Sierra Leone in 2005 to document the plight of children in West Africa with regard to conflict diamonds. He recorded a remix of the song that featured a closing verse by Jay-Z and further elaboration of the conflict in Sierra Leone, rapping, “Good Morning! This ain’t Vietnam. Still, people lose hands, legs, arms for real. Little was known of Sierra Leone, and how it connects to the diamonds we own.”

Biko by Peter Gabriel

British rock musician Peter Gabriel released Biko in 1980 as a protest against the arrest and subsequent killing of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. On the album, the song is bookended by the South African songs Senzeni Na? and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, which were sung at Biko’s funeral. In concerts, Gabriel often played Biko at the end of the show and encouraged the audience to sing along, eventually leaving the drummer on the stage to close.

Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash

Graham Nash wrote Marrakesh Express following his trip through Morocco, in which he travelled by train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. Nash sings about the trip, with “Ducks and pigs and chickens call, animal carpet wall to wall,” and “Coloured cottons hang in the air, charming cobras in the square, striped djellabas we can wear at home.” He had initially written the song while he was member of the band, The Hollies, but it was rejected. It found new life with Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1969.

Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira feat. Freshlyground

For the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Colombian-born Shakira released Waka Waka, featuring the South African band, Freshlyground. Part of the song was adapted from the Cameroonian band Golden Sounds’ 1986 song, Zangaléwa. The song was an international success and peaked at No. 1 on record charts in numerous countries around the world.

Source: AFK Insider.

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