Yegna, an all-girl Ethiopian
band, which uses music to raise awareness about women’s rights and social
issues among young people. Yegna means ‘ours’ in Amharic. Listen to them in the clip below and read more about them here.
Y’akoto – a musician
of Ghanaian-German heritage, born in Hamburg, she spent her childhood in
various countries in Africa and is now resident in Europe. Listen to her track
Come down to the River.
And since this A-Z is ending
and I won’t get the opportunity again, I’m including Yamore, a track composed
by Selif Keita and sung by him and Cesaria Evora, two voices from the continent
I absolutely adore. Enjoy!
Xalam with a track called
Xaarit. Xalam is a Senegalese band formed originally by a group of friends in 1969,
called African Khalam Orchestra. Different musicians have joined and played at
Xalam. Find out more about them here.
Xalat – a track by Ismael Lo.
Ismael is a musician of Senegalase-Nigerian heritage.
And also Silver X, the stage name of Okuta Ceasar Malish Jeremiah, an award winning musician from South Sudan with a
track called Duniya Karabu.
And finally, here is diva Miriam Makeba with Baxabene
Oxamu, a Xhosa number. The track has both the transliteration and translation
in English. Enjoy!
Fadhili Williams (1938-2001) – This is the oldest recorded
version of ‘Malaika’ available online, Williams was the first person to record this
song with his band ‘The Jambo Boys’ in the early 60’s. The authorship is
controversial. Many think it was written by a Tanzanian musician called
Adam Salim who was never credited in the recordings and did not make any money
off the song. He wrote it for his girlfriend whose parents didn’t approve
of the match and forced her to marry someone else. But Williams also claimed
the same experience and inspiration, and the song. The authorship was contested
legally and settled in favour of Williams in 1986, however many Tanzanians continue to
believe that Salim was the rightful owner. Miriam Makeba was taken to court by Williams also for singing it. Read more about the history of the Wrangling over this song, and/or enjoy listening!
Wazimbo – is the stage name of Humberto Carlos
Benfica, the most famous singer of a genre called Marrabenta, a fusion of
Mozambican traditional dance rhythms with Portuguese folk. Enjoy!
And Wizkid who is huge in Nigerian music, here’s one
of his tracks featuring the famous Fela Kuti.
Virtuoso from Mali - Vieux Farka Toure, the son of Ali Farka Toure. Magic fingers playing the desert blues!
And also Neide Van-dunem, a singer from Angola – watch her music video
featuring Calo Pascoal below:
And last but not the least, here’s late Brenda Fassie - the Black Madonna, one of the top Vocalists from
Africa with Vulindlela,which means ‘Open the gates’ a celebratory
song sung from the POV of a parent whose son’s getting married. Also another great musician, singer-songwriter from South Africa - Vusi Mahlasela, who is simply known as The Voice - worth checking out by clicking this link here.
First off, a Ghanaian Highlife band called Uhuru Dance Band, singing a
track called Umraro –
If you want a quick round up of the history of Highlife, go here.
And here's another Ghanaian hiphop artiste - Joey B, with a title called U x me
I have a lot of choices for you today – Cesaria Evora and Dorota Miśkiewicz
with Um Pincelada –
Finally Under African Skies composed by Paul Simon and sung by him and
Miriam Makeba. Controversial at the time because Simon travelled to SA in
defiance of a cultural ban in place due to the policy of apartheid. He recorded
with African musicians and subsequently faced criticism about cultural
appropriation as well. But as far as I am concerned, that’s just two of my
absolute favourite musicians’ art together – sublime!
Tinariwen - a Tuareg (Amazigh)
band from Mali, formed in a refugee camp. Internationally renowned since the
2000’s, they won the Grammy in 2012 for their album Tassilli. Very guitar
driven, stirring music, take a listen to their track Tiwayyen -
Ali Farka Toure -the
most renowned musician out of West Africa and the grand
old man of the desert blues, can’t not include him! He was the first musician
to popularise Malian music across the world. Read more about him here.
Oumou Sangaré is a multi-awarded musician and a leading exponent of theWassoulougenre of Mali - its performers are largely
women, and its lyrics address themes and subjects relevant to the lives of
women in the region. Here is a song from her 2009 Grammy nominated album Seya -
And for a
completely different listening experience, here’s Tiwa Savage, with Standing
Ovation featuring Olamide, both Nigerian contemporary artistes.
Rai is an Algerian genre, it
first developed in the 1920’s in Oran. The word rai in Arabic means 'opinion' or 'advice.' Cheikha Rmitti is revered as ‘the mother
of the genre.’ Originally sung by women, Rai rejected the then conventional rules
of refined Arabic poetry and used a gritty, often vulgar colloquial lyrics and a fusion of Arab and Western musical influences, which found a ready resonance among the underprivileged classes, but was unpopular with the posh audiences and authorities. Rmitti travelled to France and for most of her singing career sang for Algerian immigrants there. Rai was rediscovered in the 90's and became a hit with world audiences with Cheb Khaled being the most well-known exponent of the art. Listen to a Rai
song by Cheikha Rmitti and also by a later 1980's Algerian band Raina Rai below:
Ruff n Smooth are a Ghanaian
band, but they sing in pidgin English which makes them popular in Nigeria and in wider
Africa, even abroad. Take a listen
From the North to the West and then onto South to Laurika
Rauch, a legendary singer from South Africa, here with a lovely slow Afrikaans track.
She is bilingual - sings both in English and Afrikaans. Read more about her
el-Qasabgi (1892-1966, Egypt) with a composition called Zikrayat (My Memories) performed here by the National Arab
Orchestra from Michigan at the Lincoln Centre, DC. El-Qasabgi is considered one
of the greatest North African Arab composers (1892-1966) and a maestro of the
And here is
Q-chillah from Tanzania singing a genre called Bongo Flava, less of the
Eastern vibe here. This is a version developed from American hip hop with
wider African influences – Afrobeats and Tanzanian Taarab and Dansi. Lyrics are
usually in Swahili or English.
And last but not the least - the click song, Qongqothwane, sung
by the iconic artiste Miriam Makeba and covered by many others.
and I'm offering this after scrapping the poem I first
did weeks ago. This is directly inspired by the Frost poem, though it has absolutely
nothing to do with woodland pathways or anything half as lovely. Three part flash and I'm hoping they can be read in any order and I'd
value your inputs as to whether you think so or no. And due apos to the poet and all, but I can't bring myself to write travelled as traveled, drives me crazy, sorry! :)
This track is a super
popular one from his album Drums of Passion, which introduced African
percussion to global audiences in 1959. The track went onto sales of millions and has been
covered by other artists as well.
And here’s P Square, also
from Nigeria, band of twin brothers Peter and Paul Okoye. A different era, a
different genre and a different sound altogether – take a listen.
Osibisa, the Afropop/Highlife African heritage band
formed in Britain by an expat Ghanaian, I'm giving you their Ojah. They became popular in the
years I was growing up in Nigeria and toured India in 1980, though I never got the chance to watch them perform live. 'Inspired' some Bollywood tunes as well, if I'm not mistaken. But all happy memories, happy listening!
And Koffi Olomide from DRC, one of the top ten richest musicians
from Africa with Obrigado. His music’s popular, he has many gold albums to his name, but the man seems unpleasant - a pretty unsavoury
reputation for assaulting people. Don't quite get why making great art and/or having oodles of cash should give anyone a free pass to be obnoxious to their fellow humans - thoroughly disapprove.
Youssou N’dour from Senegal,
a multi-awardee (including the Grammy) musician and cultural icon across Africa
and the world.
And also Yannick Noah, of
Cameroonian origin and a French resident, he has represented France in world
tennis tournaments, then taken up music after retirement from sport - a tennis
star turned star musician.
Massive! - loads to say today!
Firstly, here is the late South African diva Miriam Makeba with Malaika -
There is much sound and fury
around the authorship of this ultra-famous 40’s East African song of ill-starred
love. The earliest recording was by Fadhili Williams though most people are now of the view that it was
written by Adam Salim in 1945, a not-so-famous Tanzanian song-writer who at the
time lived in Nairobi. The lyrics are simple, particularly the melody is quite
unforgettably haunting. I heard it first in my teens and didn’t have a clue
about the meanings (no YouTube, A-Z lyrics and translations then!) but loved it
instantly. And all these decades later, it can “still take me back where my
memories remain” – no mean thing.
A whole legion of artistes
have covered it, including later singers from East Africa (Mombasa Roots) and West Africa (Angelique Kidjo), well naturally. However, covers are not only
restricted to Africa, artistes right around the world – from India (Lata Mangeshkar, Usha
Uthup) and Germany/Caribbean (Boney M) and US (Harry Belafonte, The Brothers Four) sung it through the 70’s and 80’s.
It’s eternally popular – I heard it performed live in two restaurants in Kenya
during my visit last year. Talk about earworms! and classics.
And coming back to the 21st
century, here is the West African vocalist Eneida Marta, who sings in
Portuguese/Creole, with a super-lilting number -
Also a quick mention of Oliver
‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (1952-) since we are on the subject, a famous Zimbabwean
musician who, apart from being a vocalist and guitarist, is a social activist,
businessman, educator, philanthropist and one of the most recognised African
cultural icons. He is the UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the southern Africa
region. Take a listen to him -
And if you are in a hurry
today, this is where I suggest we say goodbye, for I am about to get into a
Megaramble about Music…
Take a listen to Life while you ponder the big issues :) Bisa Kdei is the stage name of Ronald Kwaku Dei Appiah, he is
from Ghana and has successfully collaborated with a string of African artistes,
including Patoranking from
And have a listen to Ismael Loas well. He's an award winning, internationally acclaimed musician actor of mixed Senegalese-Nigerian heritage.
Here's a favourite track of mine, take a listen - melody ring any bells?This track was part of the Windows Vista package…Habib Koite is from a Malian griot family and is one of Africa’s most recognised contemporary musicians.
Find out more about him on his website and listen to more Malian music as you read along...
Listen to Sona Jobarte. She is from Gambia in West Africa, from a griot family, a musician and
a multi-instrumentalist, but renowned as a virtuoso kora player. (I know you
are like what on earth is kora now? Shhh...come back tomorrow!) Click her name for
Gainako is a song celebrating the cowherds of the Fulani people, originally a
nomadic, cattle-rearing tribe found all through the Sahel from Guinea Bissau to
Sudan. They migrate south of the Sahel with their cattle herds as far as the
banks of the river Benue in search of pasture in the dry season. Fulani
tribeswomen coming to my mother’s porch with calabashes upon their heads to
sell fresh milk is a childhood memory. Fulani traditions have
seeped into Malian music, the Fulani are a major ethnic group in Mali and
Northern Nigeria both, and perhaps that is why it feels like big time déjà vu
to me in the most wonderful way when I come across music from Mali.
From the West to the East - Jambo! is Swahili for Hello, the common greeting in East Africa. Here is a peppy number from Kenya titled Jambo Bwana or Hello Mister -
First off, here is Imuhagh, a track from Imarhan,
a fairly young, Tuareg band from Algeria, very reminiscent of the original desert
blues. Music traditions they blend with pan-African rhythms and melodies.
Imarhan means ‘people I care about.’ Listen to
more of their music on their site.
And then take a listen to Iza
Ngomso, from the other end of the continent - South
Africa, sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir. This was released live in Carnegie
Hall in 2014, and is composed by Christopher Tin. I first heard it sung by a
choral group of young people led by a South African teenager, powerful voices and absolutely
sublime singing! Goosebumps-inducing. SGW come quite close to replicating that
experience. Just kidding :) I love the Soweto Gospel Choir - enjoy!
Ishango - the Ishango bone is a bone tool, the fibula, one of the forearm bones of a baboon. It's been dated to roughly
18-20,000 years BP, in the Upper Palaeolithic era, well before the advent of
agriculture. It was discovered by a Belgian geologist in 1960, in what was then
known as Belgian Congo, near the Congo-Uganda border in an area called Ishango
from which it takes its name.
The bone has a quartz tip
embedded at one end and groups of notches down its length. At first, it was
thought these were tally marks. But then, it was observed the marks were too
well-organised to be just tallies. They were divided into three columns,
related to each other in slightly more complex ways than first anticipated.
The left column has four
groups of notches – 19, 17, 13, and 11. They are the four prime numbers between
10 and 20 and add up to 60. The right
column has groups of 9, 19, 21, and 11, also adding up to 60. The central
column starts with 3 notches, then doubles to 6, then 4 notches and doubles to
eight, then has 10 notches which is halved to 5. They don’t really look or feel
random. Some inklings of addition, multiplication and division can be surmised.
Prime numbers as well? Just imagine!
Ancestral humans were
counting and multiplying and dreaming of primes before they could grow a single
ear of wheat! Wouldn’t surprise me if that were proved true. If they could make
the kind of art they did nearly 80,000 years ago, if they could use cosmetics
and jewellery for adornment and/or camouflage, then their imaginations had
taken off already, it’s not such a large leap to numbers.
Besides, if they lived in
tribal groups, then some kind of roll-call was probably necessary to make sure
everyone was where he/she was supposed to be. And I can so totally imagine the
mums toting up the number of fruits required for their kids so they could give
out equal shares, no breakouts of sibling squabbles please!
(‘Here’s one for you, Gnat, Cat and Bat, stop bothering your eldest sister this
instant!’) But of course, the Ishango bone goes much beyond just counting.
Some scientists have
theorised that this bone instrument is a six month lunar calendar. A natural extrapolation
being that it was a woman’s way to track her menstrual cycle. Some others have
dismissed this view. Yet others have proposed it was used to construct some
sort of numeral system, or a slide rule type instrument. A second companion Ishango bone also exists,
with a total of 90 notches on its surfaces. This has not been analysed to the
same extent, partly because it is not in the same state of preservation.
However complex or simple
the explanation of the notches may be, what seems quite indisputable is that the
Ishango bones prove Africa to be the cradle of mathematical thought. Not Sumer,
not Mesopotamia, not Ancient India, not even Ancient Egypt in North Africa. But way deeper, way
earlier than that – in sub-Saharan Africa. Homo sapiens – the Thinking Man,
well, he thought up numbers before he thought of planting seeds, and he thought
that way sitting in the heart of Africa.
From the Safaris
~ Thank you for watching! ~
Books n Stuff
Yusuf Idris – I’ve talked about this author from Egypt before over here.
Frances David Imbuga(1947-2012) – was a writer, awarded playwright, poet, teacher and
scholar from Kenya. He was born in 1947, the second generation of East African
writers after the pioneers who created a space for the African voices in
literature. Imbuga developed and extended that space. He explored themes of
gender equality and justice and respect for a black identity through his plays
and political satire. Read more about him here.
here is a poem called Ibadan by John Pepper Clark (1935- ), a famous Nigerian poet –
running splash of rust
gold – flung and scattered
seven hills like broken
in the sun.
is a well-known city in south-western Nigeria, one of the most populous in
Africa overall, a trade and cultural hub for more than a century. It is also the location of
the University of Ibadan, the premier institute of higher education in Nigeria
and West Africa, one of the oldest. Clark is himself an alumnus,
so were Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo and so also is Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian
Nobel Laureate in Literature.
poem was part of my syllabus at school. I visited Ibadan only once and I can
still remember thinking how brilliantly John Pepper Clark has evoked the exact
image of the city in such a tiny wordcount. And something that occurred to me on rereading this time is the allusion of that 'scattered among seven hills' - what other city sits on seven hills? yep - Rome. Is that a coincidence? I think...vehemently not! John Pepper Clark knew what he was doing for sure, even if it has taken his slowpoke fan a few decades to read deep enough. Respect!
Here is Mariem Hassan
(1958-2015), a Sahrawi singer and activist from the Western Sahara, with Haiyu.
Mariam sang usually in Hassaniya, a dialect of Arabic spoken in Mauritania and
Western Sahara, and sometimes in Spanish as her country was previously
colonised by Spain. Sovereignty over Western Sahara is contested by Morocco and
its status remains unresolved. Sad that she passed away so untimely.
And Hakuna Matata, which in
Swahili means no worries! Lyrics by Tim Rice, music composed by Elton John, wildly (um...is that a bad pun?) popular track from The Lion King, 1994 animated Disney film, nominated and awarded various gongs and accolades. Apart from that phrase, there is really nothing else that is African
about this song. But as you’ll see, I’m bending the rules a
bit for H, oh not the A-Z rules, the ‘Africa rules’ rule –
Guesting - which is what the foursome at Write...Edit...Publish...are doing
today at the main A-Z blog...illustrating Genre. Chuffed, Glad you could say - because that's
two of my favouritest blogfests in one post. Okay now to the main business at hand - Take a listen to Dobet
Gnahore, an Ivorian musician, here’s her Zina, powerful and heartbreaking and uplifting all in one -
And here's Coumba Gawlo from Senegal, with her golden voice and Allez Africa -
Listen here to a golden
oldie classic rendered in the sublimely warm and soul stirring voice of Cesaria Evora (1947-2011) a singer from Cape Verde, an archipelago nation off the coast
of West Africa. She sang in multiple languages and was awarded the Kora African
Music Award twice. Read more here.
And here is the last song
that Ebony Reigns,the stage name of Priscilla Opoku-Kwarteng, released before her horrific and tragic death in February. I
was actually working on the post on the day the news of her death broke, quite
shell-shocked! She was an awarded artiste, a household name in Ghana and only
twenty years old and sang Afrobeats/Dancehall. But
controversial as well for her lifestyle and subjects she sang about.
Sobering fact : Africa is the continent with the highest number of road fatalities.