Playlist : new African music (Oct 2010)

October 13th 2010

This is a sampler, in no special order, of some of the best new African music of the last couple of years.

The songs are mainly, though not exclusively, “traditional” in that they tend to employ indigenous rhythms, melodies, singing styles and instruments. This is not of course in any way representative of the bulk of present day African music, and especially popular African music, which is overwhelmingly western style urban music such as pop, R&B, hip hop and electronic dance.

There is another more subtle bias in my choices : most of the artists are west African. This reflects the strength of west African music, as well as my own preferences, but it was also surprising for instance that I found so little from southern Africa.

With these minor caveats, I’m delighted to bring together so much wonderful current African music on one page for you to listen to. I don’t know of any comparable pages anywhere else on the web, so please enjoy the music and buy a few of the albums !

First some of the big releases from 2009 (album titles are in brackets, with links to Amazon) :

Amadou and Miriam- Sabali (Welcome To Mali)

Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara – Fulani Coochie Man (Tell No Lies)

Bako Dagnon – M’Ba (Sidiba)

Baaba Maal – A Song For Women (Television)

Next, two tracks from DR Congo. Staff Benda Bilili are a group of street musicians who live around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa. The core of the band consists of four musicians who are all disabled (they suffered from poliomyelitis when they were young) and move around in spectacularly customized tricycles. Their star soloist is a 19 year-old boy who plays an electrified one-stringed lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can.

Staff Benda Bilili – Polio (Tres Tres Fort)

Lokua Kanza – Dipano (Nkolo)

Next, a couple of pieces of Tuareg desert blues. First are the great Tinariwen from their 2009 album, then a more recent release from their younger disciples Tamikrest.

Tinariwen – Tenhert (The doe) (Imidiwan : Companions)

Tamikrest – Aratane N’adagh (Adagh)

In similar vein, here’s a field recording originally posted on the Sahel Sounds blog :

Bebe – Dugaduga

And still the wonderful music keeps pouring out of Mali. Here’s another three from 2010 :

Bassekou Kouyaté with Ngoni Ba – Musow (For our women) (I Speak Fula)

Lobi Traore – Djougouya Magni (Rainy Season Blues)

Khaira Arby – Goumou (Timbuktu Tarab)

It’s sad to see less music coming out of Zimbabwe than there was a decade or two ago, but this anti-Mugabe song had me twiddling my toes :

Viomak – Hapana Mutsvene (Happy 86th Birthday President R.C.Matibili (Supreme Leader) )

And here’s some from eastern Africa. Shemum Mune is the first single from the new release by Ethiopian star Gigi; the second track is from an excellent new album Eritrea’s Got Soul, and the third is from the Canadian based rapper K’naan.

Gigi – Shemum Mune (Mesgana Ethiopia)

The Asmara All stars – Ykre Belni (Eritrea’s Got Soul)

K’naan – Somalia (Troubadour)

Back again to West Africa for the next few tracks. Manou Gallo is from the Ivory Coast, Victor Deme from Burkina Faso, Kimi Djabaté from Guinea-Bissau, and Carlou D and Cheikh Lo from Senegal.

Manou Gallo – Nanan (Lowlin)

Victor Deme – Teban Siyala (Deli)

Kimi Djabaté – Kodé (Love) (free download track from the album Karam)

Cheikh Lo – Jamm (Jamm)

Carlou D – Namenala (Musikr)

The next two singers are Egyptian, though the oud player Tarik Beshir is based in the UK where he performs with the Oxford band The Brickwork Lizards.

Amr Diab – Wayah (Wayah)

Tarik Beshir – title unknown (demo track)

I was interested to learn that the Gambian singer Jali Bakary Konteh is the son of Dembo Konteh, whom I well remember listening to and admiring on the Andy Kershaw show 20 years ago. The Akwaaba website ran a contest earlier this year for the best remix of this song; this was one of the entrants.

Jali Bakary Konteh – Combination (Sabbo remix) (original song is available as a free download and on the Konteh Kunda album)

Finally, a collaboration between two of Africa’s greatest. Although Ali Farka Toure died in 2006, this album was not released until the start of 2010.

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate – Doudou (Ali & Toumani)



  1. I like it ,it okay,THANK U.

  2. Very informatative site & a lot of hard work putting it together

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