Great African music
March 22, 2013 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been into African music for a few years, but Africa is a giant of a continent, full of undiscovered music. I'd like to find more.

Some of my favourite albums are African. Things like the Ethiopiques collections, Docteur Nico, the Zanzibara collection, the Angola 60s and 70s albums. The fact that I discovered these albums by chance tells me that there's a whole load of great African music that I'm missing.

I like a lot of Congolese music, funkier stuff like Gnonnas Pedro or Geraldo Pine (I never managed to get into Fela Kuti, too heavy for me). If I could find a song as wonderful as Lourdes Van Dunem's Ngongo Ya Biluka my life would be good.

I've partially been through this thread, but I figure after 5 years people will have dug up a lot more. (For example, finding the links for this question turned up Angola Soundtrack - The Unique Sound Of Luanda (1968-1976)). I know it's kind of stupid to ask about "African music" since it's so huge, but finding the Zanzibara album opened my ears to a whole musical subculture I'd never known existed. For example, did you know that Djbouti has music like this?

I'm sure there's a load of wonderful music I'm missing. What are your favourite African musicians or albums?
posted by nevan to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Introducing Vakoka is an all-star project from Madagascar. It's an enormous amount of fun.
posted by scruss at 6:27 AM on March 22, 2013

The Voice of America program "Music Time in Africa" has about 6 months worth of archives available online.
posted by themanwho at 6:34 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Opike Pende is a great selection of old 78 recordings from Africa.

Awesome Tapes From Africa is, well, awesome.

Dial Africa may have some of what you're looking for.

The music Sahel Sounds has been putting out is just fabulous, as are the records from Analog Africa (those are the Angola folks you linked to above).

Global Groove should turn you onto some good stuff.

If you can find a copy of The African Guitar Box from Mississippi Records you won't be disappointed.
posted by OmieWise at 6:54 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, almost forgot the Mahgrebi skank:

Moroccan Tape Stash is great.

I've been listening pretty non-stop to this album, which was just released: Kassidat: Raw 45s from Morocco.
posted by OmieWise at 6:57 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wendo Kolosoy

If you haven't already, you really should check out the World Passport podcasts, as mentioned on Mefi a few years ago.
posted by ComfySofa at 7:35 AM on March 22, 2013

I love Amadou and Mariam so much. I saw them live once and they were just mesmerizing and incredible.
posted by carolr at 7:48 AM on March 22, 2013

Seconding The African Guitar Box as a great compilation.

Loved the recent W.I.T.C.H. (We Intend to Cause Havoc) boxset from NowAgain records - "Zambia’s legendary garage-, psych-, prog-, funk-,afro-rock ensemble".

My current favourites are all kinda obvious; really into the whole Mali sound - Ali Farka Touré, Toumani Diabaté and Tinariwen, the biggest names, are never far from my deck.
posted by Hobo at 7:53 AM on March 22, 2013

Africa is a Country has a music section which is a fabulous source of recommendations. It's also just a stellar blog on African politics and culture in general, and a much needed corrective to Western perspectives on Africa (hence the tongue in cheek name of the blog itself).
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Habib Koite and Bamada
posted by thesnowyslaps at 8:37 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would like to introduce you to the subculture of Zamrock! Via Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family!

On preview: Whoops, Hobo beat me to it!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:20 AM on March 22, 2013

Soukous, baby!

You're dead on target with Tabu Ley Rochereau. The other giant is Franco and his band OK Jazz, who helped turn Congolese Rumba into Soukous. To hear what happened there, try Kanda Bongo Man. I could put literally any track on his album "Kwassa Kwassa" on repeat play and dance for two days -- and the music makes your heart get bigger with every step. Listen to how Diblo Dibala, his guitarist, carries that descending figure starting at about 3:00, and the bit after, all the way home! That's the sound of joy. Dibala also has some great stuff that's harder to find. As with all 80s Soukous (and most other kinds of music as well), beware of the occasional burst of TERRIBLE SYNTH.

Also, anything from Congo with "Rumba" in the title -- the precursor to Soukous. Several great comps have come out in the past few years.

I'm also a big fan of 60s/70s Mbaqanga "township jive" from apartheid South Africa, most famously Soweto. A very different sound, but a great, great beat. Don't be put off by Paul Simon -- this stuff is magnificent. Listen to this loping beat. I can't understand a word and it still brings a tear to my eyes.
posted by Fnarf at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2013

I control F-ed and didn't see Konono No. 1. Chikwata 263 too maybe (both use mbira).

And this is def. not directly what you asked for and some might find it offensive co-opting a la Moby, but Dan Snaith of Manitoba/Caribou/Daphni has done some things semi-recently sampling or restructuring Afrobeat stuff ("Mapfumo", "Cos Ber Zam", "Pairs", "Light", "Ye Ye", "N.P.E.".
posted by ifjuly at 12:32 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tinariwen is amazing.
posted by deliciae at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2013

+1 to Thomas Mapfumo.

Hard to go wrong with his best of album:
posted by woodman at 1:43 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also forgot to mention that the Rough Guide to World Music has a great section on African music.
posted by woodman at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2013

You probably know half of this, but dumping everything I can remember off hand for casual observers.

There are a load of great FPPs about african music. Here are a selection I've found in my favourites:

Other labels that put out great re-releases:
Soundway (Specific recs: Ghana Special album)
Crammed Discs (check out "Roots of OK Jazz")

Classic 60s/70s artists I haven't seen mentioned specifically:
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou
Victor Uwaifo
Le Super Borgou De Parakou
Rail Band

Modern african artists:
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Oumou Sangare
Bombino (who is mislabelled as Bambino the FPP above).
Vieux Farka Toure
An album called "Chamber Music" by Ballake Sissoko (a kora player) & Vincent Segal (a cellist)

If you like club music, DJ Edu's show on BBC radio 1Xtra (you can listen online) is well worth a listen for modern african music especially Afrobeats (the s is important).

Also, it's already been posted but bares repeating:
Rokia Traore
posted by Erberus at 2:53 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did you see this recent post to the blue, by flapjax at midnite? Links to some amazing Malian musicians' tracks.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:49 PM on April 23, 2013

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