1. Entertainment

5 African Reggae CDs that Every Reggae Fan Should Own

Essential Roots Reggae from the Motherland

By

Reggae music, though born in Jamaica, is deeply African in ancestry.  From the thumping backbeat to the Rastafarian Panafrican-themed lyrics, the roots are clear.  Thus, it's no real surprise that reggae is widely popular in African countries, nor that Africa has produced some of reggae's greatest musicians.  Here, from the well-known to the obscure, are five African reggae CDs that would make an excellent addition to any music lover's collection.

Lucky Dube - 'Retrospective'

Lucky Dube - 'Retrospective'
(c) Rykodisc, 2008

South Africa's Lucky Dube is probably the best-known name on this list, and was the first major reggae star to emerge from Africa.  He was a prolific songwriter and an excellent performer, and you'd do well to pick up any of his CDs, but this excellent 2-disc compilation, released after Dube was killed in a random drive-by shooting near Johannesburg in 2007 and curated by the excellent Tom Schnabel, is a great place to start.

Listen/Purchase Essential Tracks:

Compare Prices

Rocky Dawuni - 'Hymns for the Rebel Soul'

Rocky Dawuni - 'Hymns for the Rebel Soul'
(c) Aquarian Records, 2010

Best-known for his 2010 World Cup Soccer Anthem "African Soccer Fever" (found on this album in its original form, "African Reggae Fever," which features Ladysmith Black Mambazo), Rocky Dawuni is a young Ghanaian roots reggae star with a romantic and powerful lyrical touch and a knack for composing deeply catchy melodies.  Never one to shy away from outside influences, Hymns for the Rebel Soul features small but powerful touches from other genres and styles, including a churning Arabic dumbek drum on the track "Jerusalem" and a Finnish folk flute on "Take it Slow (Love Love Love)" -- unexpected but lovely.

Listen/Purchase Essential Tracks:

Compare Prices

Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars - 'Rise and Shine'

Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars - 'Rise and Shine'
(c) Cumbancha, 2010

Certainly not purists, Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars blaze their own reggae-meets-highlife-meets-pop path, and do a mighty fine job of it, too.  Once you get their backstory (the self-titled documentary about the band is difficult to watch but very much worth it), you'll fall in love with the musicians who make up this group, but their music stands on its own as well. This album, recorded partially in New Orleans, is particularly strong, and features some excellent and offbeat New Orleanian guest performers, including Trombone Shorty, Bonerama, and Washboard Chaz.

Listen/Purchase Essential Tracks:

Compare Prices

Alpha Blondy - 'Jerusalem'

Alpha Blondy - 'Jerusalem'
(c) Shanachie, 1986

Alpha Blondy, from the Ivory Coast, is an artist known as much for his rich rhythms as for his carefully penned lyrics, which often touch on heavy issues of African and African Diaspora politics, as well as Old Testament religious topics, which he writes about from something of a Judeo-Christian Universalist perspective.  This album, recorded in 1986 with Bob Marley's backing band, The Wailers, was his first to really make waves on the international music scene.  It is an album that focuses heavily on religion, tying together the common histories of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Rastafarianism, and finding the goodness in each, as well as looking at the way they interact in the political world.  Though it's now over 25 years old, this album is a timeless one, to be sure.

Listen/Purchase Essential Tracks:

Compare Prices

Tiken Jah Fakoly - 'African Revolution'

Tiken Jah Fakoly - 'African Revolution'
(c) Universal Canada, 2011

The fearlessly political Tiken Jah Fakoly is another star who hails from the Ivory Coast although due to the unstable Ivorian political climate, he lives in exile in Mali.  He has been banned from entering the nation of Senegal because of his direct criticism of President Abdoulaye Wade, though that has not slowed him from speaking out against injustice or recording powerful songs about the same.  This album, his most recent, was recorded in Jamaica and incorporates traditional roots reggae sounds with West African instrumentation, including kora and balafon.

Listen/Purchase Essential Tracks:

Compare Prices
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. World Music
  4. African Music
  5. 5 Great African Reggae CDs

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.