One of Africa's most well known and influential musicians, and an international style icon, Congolese singer Papa Wemba died suddenly during a performance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 24, at age 66. Aside from the video clips contained within this NPR obituary, I'd recommend the entertaining feature film from 1987 starring Papa Wemba, La Vie est Belle.
According to the Daptone Gold compilation liner notes (auto-playing music, click on "Biography"to read the notes), written by Pitchfork contributor Douglas Wolk, "the world capital of soul" has moved from the US ("between Memphis and Detroit, with occasional stopovers in New Orleans, Cincinnati and elsewhere") in the 1960, to Lagos in the 1970s, then it went into hiding, finally reappearing in Brooklyn, with Daptone Records. Let's go back - why Lagos in the 1970s? [more inside]
Forty eight, uh-huh, count 'em, FORTY EIGHT Fela records are now available for streaming. Make you hear this one!
The Hausa people of the north of Nigeria like Bollywood films so much that around 20 years ago they started making their own local productions. The films of Kannywood (for Kano, the capital city) feature song and dance - and the incredible music that defines Northern Nigeria: autotuned robotic vocals combined with frenetic drum machine rhythms and intricate, interwoven synths in a hybrid of local styles and Indian influence. Hear a generous sampling of it here.
Let's celebrate the 80th birthday of Afrofunk pioneer Manu DiBango with a few of his groovy tunes, shall we? He made a splash way back in 1972 with a catchy (and rather influential) little number called Soul Makossa. A few years later, in 1982, another DiBango tune, also catchy as hell, might've made it onto a turntable or a dance floor near you: it was called Echos Beti. Aside from these two tunes, there's been lots, lots more from this very prolific Cameroon-born saxophonist, vocalist and bandleader, so I've included... [more inside]
The much-renowned and very influential singer, songwriter and bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau, the legendary pioneer of soukous, has died. His music was characterized by his sweet, mellow voice, smoothly beautiful and quintessentially African vocal harmonies, and chiming, smooth-as-silk interwoven guitar melodies. Not to mention a steady, infectious beat that kept people moving on dance floors all across Africa for the past five decades. Here is but a small sampling, spanning from his very fruitful, prolific musical career: Mokolo Nakokufa, Muzina, Kaful Mayay, Bania Irene, Mongali... and since the man is said to have written as many as 3000 songs, there's plenty more out there to discover. RIP Tabu Ley Rochereau.
An effortless melding of Malian and western styles topped off by the gorgeously smoky voice of Fatoumata Diawara. The infectiously brisk tempo, chiming guitar artistry and tight, rapid fire harmonies of Shirati Jazz. The warmly grounded choral expression of South Africa's Black Umfolosi. The delicate, calmly unfolding wellspring of melody (starting off with a classic Morricone spaghetti-western quote!) of kora master Toumani Diabate. The loping, balafon-driven groove over which the majestic, declamatory voice of Oumou Sangare soars. The classic, Cuban-inspired rhumba (but with the distinctively African feel and sound) of Orchestra Baobab... all these modern treasures of African music and much, much more from Africa and beyond at the World Circuit Soundcloud page. Enjoy the ride!
When he was seven years old, Francois Luambo Makiadi built his own guitar. He would become one of the titans of 20th Century African music, Le Grande Maitre of the All Powerful Orchestre Kinois Jazz. [more inside]
When you think of African music, flutes may not be the first instruments that come to mind, but across West Africa there are some flute traditions that often involve a unique combination of vocalizing and blowing into the instrument, resulting in some amazing music that's a hella lotta fun to listen to. There are some nice examples on YouTube here, here, here and here.
The other day someone asked me "who's the most deeply grooving and truly exciting electric guitar player you've heard lately?" and I said "this guy".
Condomise, sings Babsi! Babsi, born 1933, playing the song Mabelete (Bitches) on the "Fenjoro" which he built from a plastic container, wood and strings from a handbrake cable of a car: it normally has 4 strings like the violin, but one broke.
John Storm Roberts, 1936-2009. A magnificent scholar and record producer, and the author of great classics including The Latin Tinge and Black Music of Two Worlds,, and the founder of Original Music, John Storm Roberts passed away at the age of 73 back on Nov. 29. Few figures have had such a profoundly intertwined influence on both musical scholarship and popular musical culture. [more inside]
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
Fela: Music is the Weapon is a documentary film from 1982 featuring a wealth of live concert footage (from his club in Lagos, "The Shrine") as well as interviews with the legendary Nigerian singer, bandleader and social critic. Here's part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. [more inside]
The other day I happened to come upon a music video that is just so grooving, so human and so real, that, well, it moved me, darling. Just check it out. After watching the clip, I learned that these guys are mostly disabled by polio (that's why several of them are in those rather unusual wheelchairs) and that they were living on the grounds of the Kinshasa zoo, which is where the clip was filmed. Then I learned that last year they were seeking to bring a lawsuit against the UN. Then I found some other clips. And now I am a major fan of Staff Benda Bilili. [more inside]
Ever since I first heard mbira from Zimbabwe almost 30 years ago (via this record), I've been a lover of that enchanting, delicate and intricate music. It's only recently, however, that many of us who aren't actually players of the mbira could see just how the instrument is played: Holding the mbira, and scales - Lesson One - Two - Three - Four, and more and more. And here are some recommended mbira players and groups with MySpace Music pages worth checking out: Spirit Talk Mbira - Mbira Oracle - Kunzawa Mbira Group - Joel Laviolette. [more inside]
So, you hollow out piece of wood into an oblong bowl shape, and you attach a dowel to it. Stretch a dried animal skin over that, and put some strings on it. Instruments of this general construction and in a range of sizes can be found from Morrocco to Nigeria and everywhere in between. It goes by any number of local names: Malian masters like Bassekou Kouyaté and Cheick Hamala Diabaté call it ngoni. Senegalese Wolof griots like Samba Aliou Guissé call it xalam. And Morroccan gnawa musicians like Hassan Hakmoun and Hamid El Kasri get way funky on the larger version that they call the gimbri or sentir. [not: see hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
Learn about the powerful, complex Batá drumming and dance tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Check these 6-to-8 year old Batá drummers laying down the groove. Then theres the Egungun action going on over in Ibadan, to the accompaniment of Batá drums, of course. [more inside]
The full-on, amped-up sanza sounds of Konono No. 1 have been celebrated here at MeFi not once but twice, and they are indeed wonderful. Björk's been working with them a bit lately, too. But let's go back a few decades, and take a listen to the unplugged version of this type of music: mesdames et messiurs, Papa Kourand, the grand old man of the sanza! [more inside]
Let's pay a visit to Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi, or Tuku, as he's affectionately known to his fans. His voice has a touch of that sweet soul gravel reminiscent of Georgia's Otis Redding, or Jamaica's Toots Hibberts, but his mellow fingerpicking guitar style and relaxed, loping grooves are African all the way. His earlier stuff is certainly worth going back to as well! And, hey, it's unlikely you'll hear too many other pop stars who sing lines like "Call the mother of my childfren. I am hurt. I was injured while training the ox." [more inside]
The YouTubes have the African balafon you need. Alya Dioubate. Coulibaly Samadou. Kanazoé. Epizo Bangoura. Koeta Hakiri. Bala. Man and child. Danse Moderne Balafon!
Spend a blissful 59 minutes and 7 seconds traversing the continent of Africa through her traditional music. This excellent stream (featuring just the right amount of background info) from the folks at Afropop Worldwide [previously] features plenty of the kind of effortlessly rolling, lilting rhythmic vibes that make African traditional music some of the most sublime in the world. "So don't expect over-the-top ethnography, just relax and enjoy acoustic Africa."
If you're interested in musical instruments from all over the world, Wesleyan University's Virtual Instrument Museum should not be missed. Instruments are searchable by type (idiophones, aerophones, etc.), by materials (wood, bamboo, etc.), or by geographic region. The photos are very good, and many instruments are represented by excellent MP3 audio clips. And the exhibits (QTVR movies: drag your mouse to see the instrument from all angles) are wonderful.