Africa is home to a number of fantastic musical artists and genres and there are more coming to the forefront all the time. With influences from the rich cultural backgrounds of the continent, some genres that are unique to Africa have started to develop, integrating new and old world sounds to create something truly unique. The advent of numerous musical festivals such as the Gnaoua World MusicFestival in Morocco and the Lake of Stars in Malawi has opened up a world of possibilities to experience these bold new genres and artists live. Here are some trendsetters that have grown the Africanmusic scene and brought visibility to the continent.
Konte made waves in 1998 with his hit song ‘Yeke Yeke’ which was on his Akwaba Beach album, which skyrocketed up the charts internationally almost overnight and became the first African song to sell over a million copies. It was remixed a number of times over the years, including the Afro Acid Mix which made it popular in the UK but also was mixed for German markets. Regardless, this is one song that has broken international barriers and continues to be enjoyed around the world thanks to its numerous mixes.
‘African Queen’ by this talented Nigerian singer has the label of being perhaps the most downloaded African song of all time. This song comes out for almost every occasion and is popular across various radio stations. The song is a well rounded, smooth south with impressive Nigerian vocals and is all about the uniqueness of African women and what makes them stand out.
This South African hiphop artist has been making waves since 2002. He was part of the popular group ‘Entity’ which produced a number of chart topping tracks including ‘Touch N Go’ which was nominated for Best African Hip Hop at the KORA Awards in 2005. While the group disbanded in 2006, AKA kept making tacks and in 2009 he released his debut solo album ‘Alter Ego’, which hosts some of his most well known work such as ‘Victory Lap’, ‘All I Know’ and ‘Bang’. In 2014 he released his album ‘Levels’ which featured some seriously popular tracks like ‘Congratulate’. His hit single ‘Baddest’ with Burna Boy, Yanga and Khuli Chana is on the iTunes Top 100 Charts and he recently remixed it featuring some of South Africa’s top female rappers.
African inspired music isn’t reserved for only African artists, and American band Toto’s hit song ‘Africa’ remains a huge mainstay of popular culture dating from 1982. About a white boy who wants to go Africa as well as write a song about it despite having never been there, this song became hugely popular and remains one of the bands biggest hits to this day.
Paul Simon’s album ‘Graceland’ is a huge celebration of Africanmusic and sound. With some tracks such as ‘Under African Skies’, he really helps bring African beats and sounds to the forefront of the album. He travelled to South Africa in 1985 to record the instrumental tracks for the songs and some of the backup vocals which angered some members of the UN who had put a cultural boycott on South Africa at the time due to the apartheid.
Kanye West’s song ‘Diamonds from Sierra Leone’ was recorded in 2005 to help bring attention to the plight of the children in this war torn country and the surrounding area in the name of diamonds. He recorded a remix featuring Jay Z rapping about the conflict as well, bringing even more attention to the issues in West Africa and how the diamonds in the west are connected to the conflict and problems in West Africa.
Perhaps one of the most condescending African related songs of all time, Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ recording in 1985 to bring awareness to the famine problem in Ethiopia at the time inadvertently also demonstrated western superiority over developing nations, despite its attempt at helping. Some of the lyrics of the song were more belittling the issue than helpful. In reality, the song may have been more popular given the big names associated with it at the time such as Duran Duran, Bob Geldof, U2 and more.
After winning the Peak Talent Show in 2009, this Nigerian born singer skyrocketed in popularity. Having been previously part of the girl group, Noty Spices, she eventually went solo and signed to Effyzzie Music Group in 2012, releasing the successful single ‘Ghen Ghen Love’. In 2013 she released her breakthrough song ‘Johnny’ on her ‘King of Queens’ album which has been listed as one of the best songs of 2013. 31 million views of the video on Youtube has earned her two awards in 2014 for Best Pop Single and Song of the Year. She’s additionally been awarded 2015 Afrimmas Best Female West Africa award as well as the 2015 MTV AfricaMusic Awards’ Best Female.
This award winning Afro-Pop four member group was formed in 2005 gained fame after being part of the Spotlight on Kenyan Music competition which was hosted by the Alliance francaise in Nairobi. They released two albums in 2008 and 2011 as well as a self-titled EP with South African hiphop artist and producer Spoek Mathambo. Their latest hit song ‘Sura Yako’ has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube and is currently their most downloaded song on iTunes. They have been awarded a number of awards including ‘Most Downloaded Single’ at the 2015 Mdundo Music Awards as well as the ‘Producers of the Year’ for their ‘Sura Yako’ song at the 2014 Afrimmas and SOMA Awards.
This ‘bongo flava’ and afropop artist and dancer is best known for his hit song ‘Number One’. He’s one of Tanzania’s most prolific artists and one of the highest paid musicians in the African Great Lakes Region. His current number one hit is ‘Nasema Nawe’, featuring Khadija Kopa. With over 5 million views on YouTube, Diamont Platnumz recently was awarded an MTC EMA for best African/Indian Act as well as Best Male East Africa at the 2015 Afrimmas and Best Live Act at the 2015 MTV AfricaMusic Awards. He’s also on the list of Top 10 Music Videos of 2015 based on YouTube views.