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Scott Hanselman

2007 African Music List

January 23, '07 Comments [8] Posted in Africa
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河北快3A reader wrote in to say that he liked the Afro-pop style of the  theme music, and wanted some African music pointers. I've been an Afrophile for as long as I can remember, studying Amharic while in college and now Zulu (and Bantu languages in general) and Mo and I have amassed a decent collection of contemporary African music. I can't say that my tastes are as broad and diverse as the continent, so be warned that this is a list of music I like, but not a list covering all cultures or current styles. I can virtually guarantee you'll enjoy this music though.

Note also that you'll very likely have to hunt for some of this music in your local town, unless you're living outside the states. I can typically find it at local African-specific record shops in larger towns. You can also buy most of it at the .

Of course, "African Music" isn't a genre in itself, remember we're talking about 53 countries here, with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different kinds of music. So I've narrowed the list to 20th and 21st century African music that I like.

  •  - Although he's South Africa's "" in behavior, the music is pure . Kwaito is a combination of reggae and house music.
    • If you want to experience PBA and a good general into to Kwaito and other South African hip-hop, get the (). It's a little heavy with work from another Kwaito artist, Zola, who was in the movie, but it also has Vusi Mahlasela and Mafikizolo's fantastic track Munt'Omnyama (loosely translated to "black folks")
  • - known just as "." Her album "" is considered her best work.
  • - Their  took Southern Africa by storm and is a very danceable collection.
  • - It's been a while since Netsanet's  album, so it sounds a little old-school with it's traditionally horn-heavy beats, but it's worth the listen as it's representative of a lot of contemporary Ethiopian pop.
    • Many prefer , a slightly more flexible singer.
    • More recent is , a rising star to be sure, her album  is a mix of traditional Amharic beats and Jazz.
  •  - This is an excellent compilation that includes not just Ladysmith and their unique singing and dancing style - ingquzu - but other vocal greats.
  •  - A Zimbabwean Great who is usually mentioned second, after Thomas Mapfumo. The review of his Tuku Music albumn on Amazon is spot-on:
    • His music is more romantic and bluesy than Mapfumo's...He's Ray Charles and Otis Redding to Mapfumo's Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. The music that he creates to carry a song is often light as air, creating a beautiful tension between content and container.
  •  - Nigeria's Hip Hop queen, she's a little more intense that I usually like, but still a good listen if you like American-tinged hip-hop with an African flavor.
  • - Born in Benin, but currently in Paris, her music might be dismissed by the purist because not obscure and not purely "African," her take on Summertime is worth the album price alone.
  • Pulling from a music list I posted in 2005:
    • - The King of Rai's "Aicha" is an internationally known anthem. Singing in Arabic and French, Rai is pop, reggae and funk.
    •  - An unlikely title from a man hailing from Senegal, Youssou is the African continent's Paul Simon, pulling in beats from the whole hemisphere.
  • - I nearly forgot this amazing group from RSA. Much of the album is in Xhosa but there's much in English. The group is racially mixed, very representative of the New South Africa.

河北快3And of course, to , their weekly podcast is pure African gold. 

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.


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Tuesday, 23 January 2007 21:27:31 UTC
Adriaan - You're 100% correct...it IS frustrating. Africa is a HUGE continent and Afrikaner culture is often forgotten in the shadow of Apartheid. What are some good contemporary albums you suggest?
. But for a nice broad variety, be _sure_ to check out Giles Peterson's of African artists. I used to listen to Giles when his show "Worldwide" was carried on my local public radio station, KCRW (Santa Monica). (On a side note his stuff from Brasil is excellent as well).

One thing I'm curious about Scott - no Fela/Femi Kuti?
) is one of our greats, a wonderful singer and gregarious person, who embraces a variety of languages and cultures within Southern Africa, not least of all Afrikaans, which , as Adrian points out is neglected at times, with musicians like the late ( translated as John ChurchOrgan - Ralph John Rabie was his real name apparently ) - of the Gereformeerede blues Band coming to mind as well as the quirky but enjoyable .



What I will say about Afrikaans music however is that its definitely an acquired taste, and understanding the language is almost certain to be a requirement in enjoying the music - a lot of the music has "normal" rock as a base, so without understanding the lyrics, it becomes hard for foreigners to hook into it because its not "different enough" from normal western music apart from language - I'm not dissing it, but in my experience, its far easier to get people to listen to ethnic african music with its unique ryhthms , scale and syncopation, than afrikaans music ( and I have tried here in Australia ) with its humour and poetry.

I must also recommend to anyone interested in SA music, I picked up a CD of hers at Johannesburg airport a year ago and loved her music and her stunning voice.


Worth a mention as well is , fronted by Jabu Khanyile, a musical genius who sadly passed away young, like a lot of our countrymen.
- do yourself a big favour and listen to the title track of the Mmalo-We album.

Great post Scott and proof that good programmers can be interested in more than geek stuff.
Ant Day
Tuesday, 30 January 2007 12:32:19 UTC
Anyone have an opinion of Orchestra Super Mazembe? I found their most recent compilation "Giants of East Africa" on eMusic a few months ago. I personally like it. Its not contemporary, really. Most of their albums are from the early 80s.
Tim Coker
Monday, 19 February 2007 08:58:39 UTC
African leaders should stop fighting down the power of

our home African built music Like Reggea
Victor Ototo General Conqueror
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.