Acaveat: it is difficult to talk about the music that comes out of Africa without blanketing it with the term ‘African music’. The continent is so vast and varied that it might sound gauche. Yet, the most exciting pop music at the moment is spilling from all over the continent: Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Angola, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal…
Of course, it has been happening for a long time, but recently a resurgence of interest, the world-shrinking power of the internet and the direct impact of the music industry on Africa’s economy have made it much easier to access.
It’s a nice coincidence that in the month Paul Simon could hit number one again in the UK (it reached number three in the United States in 1986) with his album Graceland – an album that introduced many in the West to the sounds of South Africa – there are numerous events in London celebrating and showcasing the newest African talents. Baaba Maal will finish the Africa Utopia festival at the Southbank next weekend (he played early this month too). Last night Oumou Sangaré (banjo maestro) & Béla Fleck (the soungbird of Wassoulou) played. Tonight Guinean Kora maestro Mosi Conde, Congolese five-piece collective Kasai Masai and Yaaba Funk’s DJ, perform at an event to raise money for the Sound Foundation, a brilliant charity that pays for music education in Ugandan schools. D’banj, an artist now signed to Kanye West’s record label, played at the Hackney Weekender. There’s an Afro Beats night on Saturday with DJ Neptizzle and Sef Kombo in London.
D’banj, from Nigeria, recently broke the West with his hit Oliver Twist, a song within the Afro Beats genre that you might have heard on dancefloors – or in the background of a recent Eastenders episode. I first really listened to pop music from Africa – Ugandan – at a hen do in a friend’s car. It was a damn sight better than the samey europop I heard in a club later that night. Since then I’ve particulary fallen for Spoek Mathambo’s addictive trip pop, Fatoumata Diawara‘s sunny, guitar-based hooks, Nneka‘s depth of songwriting and Batida‘s bouncy, infectious rhythms.
Damon Albarn has done the most to banish the stigma of world music, particularly within his Africa Express project. If you haven’t heard about it already (it was founded in 2006), it’s a cool way of discovering great new artists. The band connected to the group headlined the Great Escape festival in Brighton earlier this year and played a set at Boiler Room in May. It isn’t especially easy to know where to look for African music (although there are loads of blogs out there and compilationtapes) so I’ve made a brief and quickly put together Spotify playlist of songs that you might want to dip into below.
Pop’s a bit stale at the moment and would benefit from an injection of the abundance of music that’s coming out of Africa. Perhaps Albarn was right when he said in an interview with the Guardian: “African music is the future of music … that’s what you’re hearing here, the future.”
Source : Telegraph.co.uk