May 29, 2009 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Help a newb explore African pop music.

I really lurve the pop tracks on The Last King of Scotland OST.

Where should I look to go deeper? Compilations and "best of" discs would be preferred, but any suggestions of seminal or watershed albums appreciated too.
posted by bardic to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

Zulu Jive: Umbaqanga - Urban & Rural Beats From South Africa is one of the most joyful and amazingly great records ever. Out of print, though.

I'm crazy about Prince Nico Mbarga's Aki Special CD, which compiles one album and three quarters of another and features Sweet Mother, which contrary to everything you might expect about musical popularity was richly deserving of its status as the biggest selling record in Africa. Ever.

Orchestra Baobab's Pirate's Choice is nearly perfect.

Most releases by Kanda Bongo Man are worth getting - Kwassa Kwassa or Amour Fou are easy to find.

Easily the best African song ever is Mama Na Mwana by Jean-Bosco Mwenda. You'll never hear anything sweeter. It's on Origins Of Guitar Music In Southern Congo & Northern Zambia 1950 '51 '52 '57 '58, which is veering into specialist territory, but it's all magical. Mwenda only has ever had one legitimate US CD release. It features his last recordings (he died in a car accident after decades of recording) and it's called Mwenda Wa Bayeke: African Guitar Legend - The Studio Album. It's worth getting and is on the Rounder label. Like most of his music, it features his very spry, melodic African guitar playing and warm vocals. It includes a great remake of his big song, Masanga. It just grows and grows on me, and feels like a mysterious lost set of lullabyes my parents forgot to sing to me.

Most of this stuff avoid more overtly "funky" stuff (like Fela Kuti), which I'm not as crazy about.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:59 PM on May 29, 2009

I'm not familiar with the music in the film, but during my recent trip to Kenya everyone there was really into P Square, particularly the song 'No One Like You'. It's in English, but it's very catchy!
posted by abundancecafe at 11:03 PM on May 29, 2009

I love the Nigerian music blog Comb and Razor, and he links to a lot of other blogs you might be interested in too.
posted by serazin at 11:45 PM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: These are all great directions. Thanks.
posted by bardic at 12:06 AM on May 30, 2009

To explore, try a good African radio station. Also, eMusic has a nice African selection, which includes some watershed albums.

This is a great compilation of South African music

African bands I like which are of a pop nature:
Extra Golden
Mose Se 'Fan Fan'
Orchestra Super Mazembe
posted by keith0718 at 1:32 AM on May 30, 2009

It is not exclusively African but World Passport has a lot of amazing African music.
posted by pasici at 3:42 AM on May 30, 2009

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International is a current, US-based band that plays this style of music.

Their cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" (track 4 in the above link) is particularly catchy.

OBDBI also puts on an incredible live show.
posted by njm at 6:11 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Voodoo funk will is great site to hear dusty 70's African funk.
posted by JamesMCS at 6:45 AM on May 30, 2009

I recomend Fac Alliance out of Guinea, Salif Keita (not pop but incredibly beautiful) out of Guinea/Mali, Youssuf N'dour from Senegal and Magic System (Cote d'ivoire I think). Thirding Fela Kuti. if you like him, try his son Femi Kuti as well.
posted by semacd at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2009

Soukous is probably the most infectious dance music ever. And if you get a chance to see a soukous band, complete with dancers, go. Kanda Bongo Man blew my mind.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:38 AM on May 30, 2009

Seconding Magic System. Here are some of their tunes/colaborations:

C'est chaud, ca brule
Un gaou a oran
Bouger bouger

If you like salsa, check out the group Africando, also known as Africando All Stars. Their style is a blend of salsa and West African music. Check out the album Mandali if that sounds interesting.

I also LOVE Orchestra Baobab. Seconding the album Pirates Choice, and I also recommend Specialist in All Styles.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2009

Ali Farka Touré's son Vieux Farka Touré is also excellent.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:58 AM on May 30, 2009

p square! I'm just back from Africa and p square (twin brothers from Nigeria) is everywhere. The link gives you a sample but there is more on youtube and elsewhere.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2009

I highly recommend Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal, both from Senegal. N'Dour's Wommat and Eyes Open are both terrific albums, just for starters. It's hard to pick a Baaba Mal album out of the many great options; Mi Yeewnii and Firin' in Fouta stand out.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:52 AM on May 30, 2009

I agree that Orchestra Baobab's Pirate's Choice is an amazing album and a great place to start. Honestly, I bought it several years ago and probably didn't branch out too much because I just kept coming back to that album.

Lipa Kodi Ya City Council is "hard to find R&B, Pop, Highlife, Palm wine, Juju & Choral music recorded between 1967 & 1972."

While I haven't listened to all of it, the Ethiopiques collection might be another good thing to explore, even if it is a bit overwhelming. I'm particularly fond of volume 13, Ethiopian Groove. The second track (which you can sample here) is a total banger. Another Ethiopian artist to check out is Aster Aweke. Her voice is like nothing I've ever heard anywhere else. Some of the arrangements can get a little corny in my opinion, but her ballads are really beautiful.

London is the Place for Me, Vol. 2, while mostly calypso, also has some kwela and highlife stuff you might like.

Ernest Ranglin, one of Jamaica's most influential guitarists, did an album with Baaba Maal a few years ago called In Search of the Lost Riddim. The third track, "Minuit," is especially lovely.

I claim no expertise about this stuff, but these are the albums I've been really enjoyed.
posted by 6and12 at 4:33 PM on May 30, 2009

Seconding Emusic. Love it love it love it.

Also, FWIW, I occasionally DJ on KTRU before the African music show starts, and the dude who runs it is crazy knowledgeable. I think he must have lived in Africa for a time. Most weeks he brings a big-ass crate of vinyl focusing on one particular genre or one particular time period in one particular region.

Saturdays from 1-3pm.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 7:53 AM on May 31, 2009

Seconding Amadou and Mariam and Fela Kuti. Could listen to both of those all day long. Amadou and M'ariam/s album Dimanche a Bamako was produced by Manu Chao and is awesome.
posted by lunasol at 2:39 PM on May 31, 2009

I cannot believe nobody has brought up Brenda Fassie or Boubacar Traoré.

+1 for Fela Kuti, Ali Farka Tour and Ethiopiques.
posted by thaths at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2009

ooh, I looove African pop music!

Have I got some great sites for you!
Soukous Radio, free online. whoo hoo and
Awesome Tapes From Africa, listenable free online.

You can check out the pop music of a variety of African countries at the Africa Hit site, related post.

Another post you might like about African rock n' roll.

A couple of my fave CDs are The Merdoum Kings Play Songs Of Love by Abdel Gadir Salim. You Tube clip

and Tabu Ley Rochereau et M'Bilia Bel avec L'Afrisa International (great album!).

Then there's a North African singer I like, Cheb Mami, here with Sting.

Kings of African Music, listen to samples online.

Oooh and this sensually soulful song: "Ai du" live by Vieux Farka Toure.
posted by nickyskye at 8:18 PM on June 3, 2009

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