Africa is a huge continent made up of hundreds of different tribes of people. When first starting to explore the music of Africa, it can be quite overwhelming! Here are some CDs from different cultures and regions of Africa to get you started.
This Grammy Award-Winning album is an excellent showcase of this South African Zulu Choir's work. Ladysmith Black Mambazo
is one of the most well-known African groups in the United States, in great part due to their collaboration with Paul Simon
on his Graceland album. Their music is rooted in traditional Zulu sound called isicathamiya
and bears elements of the centuries-old South African gospel music
Tinariwen is a band that comes out of the Touareg tradition of North Africa, but deftly blends their traditional sounds with those of American electric blues. Picture B.B. King or John Lee Hooker being dropped off in the Sahara and jamming with the local tribesmen, and you'll have a vague idea of what this record sounds like.
The Mahotella Queens are a venerable trio of fearless, strong women who sing beautiful three-part harmonies over heavy basslines and exciting guitar riffs. They're from South Africa, and they've been together since well before the fall of Apartheid
. This is their first album as a band since the death of their former bandleader Mahlatini.
, from Senegal, is well-known for combining many musical traditions with his own. On this album, he blends Senegalese traditions with Arabic and Egyptian Orchestral music. It's fresh and original, easily accessible to Western ears but purely African, nonetheless.
D'Gary and Jihe - Horombe
D'Gary, from Madagascar
, is widely recognized as one of the most talented guitar players in the world. On this album, he is backed up by his band Jihé, whose vocal stylings and intense rhythms complement his sizzling guitar licks beautifully.
Thomas Mapfumo - Chimurenga '98
This album from Zimbabwean
singer Thomas Mapfumo
and his band, The Blacks Unlimited, is one of the finest records that he's ever released. His songs balance between the heavily political and observations of day-to-day life. His music is also a balance, between modern Afro-pop and traditional chimurenga and jit styles.
King Sunny Ade is a master of Nigerian
Juju music, and also incorporates elements of highlife and other West African pop genres into his signature style. This is real "feel-good" music, undoubtedly capable of pulling just about anyone out of a foul mood. This album is one of his finest; he's brought in well over a dozen of Nigeria's finest musicians to accompany him.
Hakmoun is from the Gnawa traditions of Morocco
, in Northern Africa. He plays the sintir, which is a 3-stringed lute, and is accompanied by a variety of Gnawa musicians, as well as few jazz musicians. The music is very improvisational and gently rhythmic, and the vocals are wailing and bluesy.