Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 African songs I think you should know about

I absolutely love African music and it is almost by coincidence. The day I promised to be a Pan-African and take interest in learning many things about different African countries, it started with the music. I haven't stopped since and I have collected a large database of songs from all over the continent, from kwaito to coupe decale, from genge to mbalax and from bongo flava to zouk. I am going to use this blog entry to talk about 10 African songs that I love and listen to consistently even though I don't know 100% what the lyrics are about (in no particular order). None of them are in English (obviously). None of them are from Ghana (syke). None of them are from Nigeria either (because chances are you've already heard about them). I hope you will check them out and listen to them. You may discover your next favorite song or artiste. Click the songs to find the lyrics, video, audio, etc.

High I go - Kabelo (Kwaito/gospel from South Africa)
The first Kwaito songs I heard were TKZee's Shibobo and Fiasco. Shibobo was a big song in South Africa composed in the midst of South Africa's participation in the France World Cup in 1998. Kabelo is one of the members of the now disbanded TKZ group and I was given some tracks on his 2006 Exodus album by a Swazi friend, including this one. I have never stopped listening to this song, it may be my 'favoritest' gospel song ever. South Africans can sang! This song is gospel but it should be played at every African party, the beat is just super. And those clicks! Mhhmm.

Teu grande amor - Ary (Kizomba from Angola)
I only discovered Kizomba last year after I looked more into Zouk music. I quickly found out Ary was one of the more popular Angolan musicians. Teu grande amor made an impression on me from the start. Zouk/Kizomba beats are the best. The music would be considered slow for many African parties but the folks here at Stanford have bought into the Zouk hype and it's a feature now. Imagine the last time we had a party and a policeman paid us a visit to talk about the noise level. Noise? No problem. Play some soothing Zouk music and no one will complain. I want to visit Angola. They have kizomba and the women are hot.

Chuki - Wyre (R&B from Kenya)
I heard about Wyre in 2004 when a Kenyan friend decided to satisfy my craving for Kenyan music with some CDs. The 'Necessary Noize' CD she gave me had the 'Bless my room' track which I really like. Chuki came along in 2007 and I can't stop listening to this song. It's really mellow and soothing. I've learnt to sing along.

Safari - Mokobe ft Viviane (Hip-hop from Mali)
I fell in love with this song because of the video. Some people remember Mokobe from his 113 days when he featured on a couple of huge Magic System hits (Un gaou a oran and Bouger bouger). His debut album featured more than 10 African music superstars. Safari is my favorite here because the video simply 'celebrates' Africa and what some of us abroad miss about it and it has the angelic voice of Senegal's Viviane.

Amor - Philippe Monteiro & Viviane (Zouk from Cape Verde/Senegal)
One of my Rwandan friends had been trying to latch me onto the Zouk craze for a long time. But one beautiful day in Ghana in January 2008, I was sold. The seller was a Burkinababe. :-) She didn't give me this particular song but the Zouk she gave me left me craving for me like a fat kid loves cake. I discovered this song 'googling' and it's become one of my favorites. Portuguese is such a romantic language *sigh*. And those Wolof lines by Viviane even outshine the Portuguese in the song. How can anything bother you after listening to this sheer joyous piece of music?

Sorriso - Lizha James (R&B? from Mozambique)
Lizha James came into my life in 2006 after she won a major Channel O Music Video award. She's one of the best musicians in Africa period. She does many styles and if she sang in English, she may be Africa's biggest. My Lizha choice is this slow ballad that is less than 3 minutes but it is 2 and a half minutes of pure bliss. I never listen to this song once or twice, has to be 3 times until I let it go. And I don't even know what she's singing about.

Nsanyuka nawe - Blu3 (R&B from Uganda)
My favorite genre is RnB in case you haven't figured it out. Blu3 aka 3 Black Ladies from Uganda is flat out Africa's Destiny's Child. They've toured the continent and they make pretty good music. They never made a video for this song but I like it more than their Swahili and English tracks. (I am still listening to Sorriso :-D) I love the beat for this song too.

Ferme les yeux imagine toi - Soprano ft Blacko (Hip hop from Comoros)
Comoros? Is that an African country? Yes. I have never met anyone from Comoros before but I love this song. The rap is exquisite and the singing is heavenly.

Amoulanga - Magic System (Zouglou? from Cote d'Ivoire)
Everyone makes a big deal about Premier gaou. I have come to detest that song, we need to dance to something new. Amoulanga is a Magic System as old as Premier Gaou (Africa's party anthem), but no one talks about it. If anyone knows what this song means, please share. When this song started getting radio airplay in Ghana in 2000, many thought it was a Ghanaian song. Too bad.

Birima - Youssou Ndour (Mbalax Afro-pop from Senegal)
My Swazi friend got me to love this song. I had always slept on Youssou Ndour until I heard this track. It has to be one of the best African songs ever. Youssou's voice is great but this song is very well composed. I have never really liked Mbalax but this Senegalese track is a favorite.

These are the first 10 songs that came to mind. If I remember one injustice that I missed, I will comment about it. I will like to give a shout-out to a number of songs. Lady Jaydee's Distance (Tanzania) teaches you how to say 'I love you' in 5 African languages (Kiswahili, Luganda, Zulu, Kinyarwanda, Lingala). Now how awesome is that! Jessy Matador's Decale gwada is one great Coupe Decale song while Muntuza (2Bob) by Malaika is a great South African jam. One other African party anthem is Awilo Longomba's Karolina. I am a sucker for songs about Africa and that includes Africa by Salif Keita. Can't complete this entry without a Kaysha mention, check out On est ensemble.

Long live African music.
Long live African unity.
Long live Africa
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