Africa is an extraordinary melting pot of life, dance, culture and rhythm. Gently swaying hips, thumping to the beat of a drum or bopping your foot, there is always a melody being played somewhere. Music is as essential to life as oxygen is to breathe and the pulsing heartbeat of Africa offers incredible musicians that sing our story.
Tinariwen – Cler Achel (Mali)
Malian folk music is sparse and hypnotic, featuring loopy rhythms and melodies. Music band Tinariwen is the most established and renowned of the region’s artists, having been together in various forms over the last 30 years, performing around the world with some of the West’s biggest names including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock.
Fela Kuti – Sorrow, Tears and Blood (Nigeria)
Kuti is not only considered Nigerian music royalty, but also one of Africa’s greatest musical sons, combining soul and jazz with harmonic, upbeat West African rhythms to create some of the most original music ever recorded.
Khaled – Didi (Algeria)
Khaled is one of the biggest superstars of the region, thanks to his instantly catchy crossover hit Didi which not only charted around North Africa, but also proved popular on the dance floors of Europe and the US.
Hamza El Din – Water Wheel (Egypt)
El Din was an influential world classical music composer and ethnomusicologist from the lower Nile Nubian region. Specialising in the traditional stringed oud instruments, his meandering minimalist string and vocal recordings during the 1960s are recognised as some of the first world music recordings to influence Western classical music, including Steve Reich and the Kronos Quartet.
Corneille – Toi (Rwanda/Canada)
Singer-songwriter Cornelius Nyungura, performing under the name Corneille, is a genocide survivor who lives and performs in Canada. He released his first album, a French-language soul album in 2002, charting in Belgium and France where it reached number four. His song Toi is one of Canada’s biggest selling French-language singles.
Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (Cameroon)
Recorded in 1972, Soul Makossa remains an influential song, inspiring US producer Quincy Jones in emulating the bass-rich sound for Michael Jackson’s early solo albums and then later as a go-to source of samples for a number of modern hip hop and R&B hits. The song can be heard on Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music and Getting’ Jiggy With It by Will Smith.
Gigi – Abyssinia Infinite (Ethiopia)
Ejigayehu Shibabaw, also known as Gigi, injects her Ethiopian musical heritage into a variety of genres, including jazz rock, reggae dub and soundtrack work. Working closely with husband, jazz producer Bill Laswell, Gigi’s ethereal and uninhibited vocal style has graced recordings with Herbie Hancock, Indian composer Karsh Kale and avant-garde rock guitarist, Buckethead.
Lady Jaydee – Ndi Ndi Ndi (Tanzania)
Judith Mbibo, known as Lady Jaydee, is one of Tanzania’s most popular singers, akin to the kind of status of Brenda Fassie had in South Africa. Her upbeat kwaito-infused pop songs are gaining her new fans across the rest of the continent.
Banjo Mosele – Botsa Mmutla (Botswana)
Botswana has a rich and diverse musical culture which covers traditional and pop music, jazz, dance music and outsider genres like heavy metal. The country boasts some of the best jazz and traditional instrumentalists in the world, including Banjo Mosele, founding member of the Kalahari Band, Hugh Masekela’s touring band during his exile in the 1980s. Mosele also played guitar in sessions with a number of music’s biggest names including Peter Gabriel, Jonas Gwangwa and Bheki Mseleku.
Freshlyground – Doo Be Doo (South Africa)
In a country as diverse as South Africa, it is difficult to pinpoint a single genre, traditional or contemporary, that could do justice to defining the South African sound or even its listeners. Rock, pop, kwaito, hip hop, jazz, classical, anything goes in Mzansi and each fan base is as fierce and loyal as the next.