This song could have been nothing. Its original, limited release in Ghana went completely under the radar. Yet, by chance, the song was picked up by Brian Shimkovitz – who covered it as the first song on his now legendary Awesome Tapes From Africa.
Let’s not sugar coat the vocals. They range from ‘passionate’ to fairly dire. But it’s not enough to dent that amazing, old school lo-fi house groove.
The song was forward looking, blending African pop sounds with the music Ata Kak was exposed to in Toronto. It’s a mash up of hip hop and house, using simple, Nintendo style chords. Somehow, it just works!
Released originally in 1994, the track has since become a cult favourite.
Amadou & Mariam are a couple from Mali, both blind, both excellent musicians.
A lot of their music is lighter than this track, which leans into its danceable bass and kick with vigour.
It’s the vocals which provide the most interest, although the instrumental is littered with brilliant flourishes, such as the electric piano part. The percussion is varied and vibrant too! It’s a busy track, but not overcrowded.
Loosely speaking, the song is about the virtues of not being lazy.
Malian music reflects the diversity of the country. This more modern song retains that energy, to a degree, but is easy to listen too.
“Bofou Safou” was released in 2017, as a single from La Confusion.
South African music stands out even from the diversity of Africa. This frenetic effort from Sho Madjozi is as South African as it comes.
Taken from her seminal Limpopo Champions League, released 2018, this has a lighter – yet still energetic – tone compared to some of the other songs featured on the album, which are more along Gqom and Kwaito lines.
The beat is pacey, reminiscent of old school South African dance styles such as Shagaan Electro. The ears are fed heartily on the deep rhythms, punchy bass and percussion jumping and twisting with reckless abandon.
There’s a reason South African kids dance in such a crazy way… SA dance music is just a cut above!
The lyrics are in Tsonga and English, although because it’s SA, Swahili and Zulu also enter the mix. The country is diverse, to say the least. Maybe that’s why the music is so cool!
Anyone who’s been going to the cinema in the last 5 years might be familiar with the Amazons as the tribe of fierce warrior women in Greek mythology. Or, you might know that through your extensive classical education and what not. In any case, the Amazons are a byword for bad ass women.
Have a listen to this banger, originally released on Au Coeur De Paris in 1983, and tell me that this all female ensemble of Guinean ex-servicewomen doesn’t absolutely smash it!
The pulsing percussion comes in a torrent, exuberant horns riding the wave, with the classic afrobeat guitar lick steadily rolling. And those vocals; the power!
You can feel the energy of the crowd, since the recording was done live. The appreciation of the deft guitar solo and bold horns rings out – and why not? This is simply flawless from start to finish.
A country in Africa which I haven’t touched on so much in this blog is Zambia.
The ‘Zamrock’ scene is one shaped by the tumultuous history of Zambia, and represents something special in music terms.
The fuzzy bass, the funky drums, the strident yet harmonious vocals – it’s almost like a more punky version of reggae!
This track is unmistakably African, and has the familiar psychedelic feeling of 70s rock fusion on the continent. But once you’ve listened to Zamrock for half an hour or so, you really start to gain an appreciation for its uniqueness.
The song can be found on Welcome To Zamrock! How Zambia’s Liberation Led To a Rock Revolution, Vol. 2 (1972-1977), released in 2017 on Now Again records.
For some reason, Cape Verde hits well above its weight musically. It could be due to the diverse history and population of the islands, but it has more than one distinctive genre.
I’ve actually covered a song from this compilation before. But there’s so just many amazing tracks!
This is not part of that tradition – but it nevertheless retains a strong Cape Verdean flavour.
This particular brand of Cape Verdean funk is allegedly a result of a shipment of synthesizers washing up on a beach – seriously!
There’s a strong parallel to Cuban music, with a blend of African polyrhythms and Latin instrumentation. Although the influences are different, of course, there is more than a passing family resemblance…
The song is bass driven, with a prominent walking bass jamming along throughout. There’s some excellent guitar work too, accentuating the Latin vibe.
Vocally, the song is rowdy. Not only from his singing, which is great, but from the cacophony of backing vocalist.
The percussion is exquisitely engaging. The bongo rolls glance off the fluid rhythms of the drum kit, in a brilliant showcase of frenetic Cape Verdean style.
The song was released in 1977 on Nos Bida, but re-released by Analog Africa on Space Echo – The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed! in 2016.