Tag Archives: African music

Enjoyable World Music for Kids

Putumayo Kids Presents… Kid’s African Part

World music for kids is a great way to introduce children to musical diversity and learn about geography and other cultures.  Mainstream media provides a very limited, skewed view of music with only exposure to commercial pop and hip hop. Two recent world music-flavored releases are directed towards kids.

Putumayo Kids Presents… Kid’s African Party (Putumayo World Music, 2018) is a compilation of animated songs with catchy vocals and rhythms that represent various parts of Africa and invite children to stand up and dance.

The album includes Sam Mukoro’s Nigerian reggae; Afropop from Takeifa (Senegal) and Aldebert ft. Matar Sall & Joyce Tape (France/Senegal/Ivory Coast); American lounge band Pink Martini playing a funk version of famous South African song Pata Pata;  the East African charm of Jabali Afrika (Kenya); the great highlife guitar lines of Babá Ken Okulolo (Nigeria); Zambian Afropop from Larry Maluma & Kalimba; Berber pop by Majid Soula (Algeria); excellent chimurenga highlighting the mbira and guitar of Chris Berry & Panjea (USA/Zimbabwe); and Sharon Katz & The Peace Train introduce kids to swinging South African music, highlighting the pennywhistle.

The physical CD version of Kid’s African Party is way more fun than the digital edition, featuring dancing kids and animals; colorful illustrations; biographies of the artists with geographical and cultural information that parents can read to the kids; and a short glossary of African music styles and instruments.

Marta Gómez – Coloreando Dos

The other album, Coloreando Dos, by Colombian songwriter and instrumentalist Marta Gómez introduces traditional Spanish-language songs for children from Spain and Spanish-speaking America adorned with exquisitely-crafted Latin American rhythms and Marta Gómez’s captivating vocals and guitar.

The CD version of Coloreando Dos is beautifully-packaged with lyrics in Spanish and translations to English, multicolored illustrations. On the down side, the liner notes make a nonsensical reference to this album featuring Colombian Spanish rather than Spanish. Any Spanish-speaking person, from any country, will be able to understand the lyrics perfectly.  Some Americans (the album was released in the USA) seem to be obsessed with highlighting differences between Spanish from various nations, when they are really minimal.


Africa on the Square returns to London in 2018

Music festival Africa on the Square will returns to of London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday, October 27, 2018 from noon to 6:00 pm.

The free event will feature Sona Jobarteh (who is currently touring the United States), Beeogo Yinga, Kodjovi Kush & Afrospot All Stars, Namvula, Signkid and many more.

The African arts and culture celebration also features an Africa Fashion Week show, a colorful parade, dance battle and acrobats. There will also an African Market where you can buy African-style clothing, arts and crafts, beauty products and tasty food.


Zanzibar African Music Festival Sauti za Busara Announces First Set of Artists for 2019


The highly influential African music festival Sauti za Busara has announced the first names of artists set to perform in 2019. The next edition will take place in Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar (Tanzania) during February 7–10, 2019, with 44 performances on three stages.

The artists include Afrigo Band (Uganda); Mokoomba (Zimbabwe); Fid Q (Tanzania); Mkubwa na Wanawe Crew (Tanzania); Ifrikya Spirit (Algeria); Ithrene (Algeria); Fadhilee Itulya (Kenya); Tausi Women’s Taarab (Zanzibar / Tanzania); Rajab Suleiman & Kithara (Zanzibar / Tanzania); Hoba Hoba Spirit (Morocco); M’Toro Chamou (Mayotte / Reunion); Sofaz (Reunion); Tune Recreation Committee (South Africa); Jackie Akello (Uganda); Shamsi Music (Kenya); Dago Roots (Reunion); Trio Kazanchis +2 (Ethiopia / Switzerland); Damian Soul (Tanzania); S Kide & Wakupeti Band (Tanzania); Faith Mussa (Malawi); Lydol (Cameroon); Stone Town Rockerz (Zanzibar / Tanzania); Man Sulei Tara Jazz (Zanzibar / Tanzania); Wamwiduka Band (Tanzania); and Eli Maliki (Uganda).

More at www.busaramusic.org


Artist Profiles: Madagascar Slim

Madagascar Slim – Photo by Anand Maharaj

Madagascar Slim’s real name is Randriamananjara Radofa Besata Jean Longin. He talks about his background: “I Was born on Halloween night of 1956 in Antananarivo the capital city of Madagascar.

I was the youngest son in the family and I had 3 brothers and two sisters. Two of my brothers and one sister played guitar, and my parents were both musicians although not playing professionally.

When I was about nine, one of my brothers received a guitar for passing an exam. The instrument really gave him power over me and the only time he allowed me to play it, was after I ran some errand for him or gave him my dessert. I guess that’s one of the reasons the guitar became very desirable to me.

My brothers played in a local band and they were into one of the most popular dance music of Madagascar called “Salegy”. Again I was not allowed to be in their rehearsal room but whenever my brother practiced on his own I would closely observe his technique and I would try to emulate his playing on his guitar when he was not home. It was not long before I became a fairly decent “Salegy” player.

One day I heard this incredible music on the radio. It was “Hey Joe” played by Jimi Hendrix and it really change my life and the kind of music I wanted to play then. I literally spent days and nights trying to figure out the chords and especially that fantastic solo part. I couldn’t speak a word of English and I did not understand what he was talking about but the feel of the music somehow really touched something in me.

Later when I heard some records of B.B. King, I recognized the same crying solo pattern but in a more direct and simplified form. Those two giants and the local Malagasy music were the biggest influence to my playing.

My parents sent me to Canada in 1979 to further my studies and get a good education, but in my mind the real reason I came over was to learn English so I could sing the kind of songs I fell in love with when I was younger. I took English as a second language and then I finished college. I graduated with honors in the “Accounting and Finance Co-op Program” at Seneca College.”

After hearing Malagasy music from the visiting band Tarika, Slim became excited about playing the music of his homeland again. He got a grant to return to Madagascar and study the valiha with one of the masters. While there, he also met one of his heroes, guitarist & songwriter D’Gary. He was treated as a star in his hometown.

His unique music has received many awards including the 2000 JUNO Award for Best Global Music recording for his album Omnisource and another JUNO in 2001 for his collaboration in the group Tri-continental.


Omnisource (2000)
Tri Continental (Trem, 2001)
African Guitar Summit Vol 1 (CBC Records, 2004)
African Guitar Summit Vol 2 (CBC Records, 2006)


The 2018 ACCES Conferences, Showcases and Exhibitions to be Held in Kenya

The Music in Africa Conference for Collaborations, Exchange and Showcases will be held November 15 – 17, 2018 at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi.

The Music in Africa Foundation (MIAF) has revealed the artists who will showcase at the pan-African event in Kenya. Eleven acts selected from across the genre spectrum to highlight the different sounds that define contemporary and traditional music in sub-Saharan Africa.

Seun Olota

The acts include Eric Wainaina (Kenya), Makadem (Kenya), Seun Olota (Nigeria), Sahad and The Nataal Patchwork (Senegal), Maia and the Big Sky (Kenya), Siti & The Band (Tanzania), Kidum and the Bodaboda Band (Burundi/Kenya), Djénéba & Fousco (Mali), Suzan Kerunen (Uganda), Winyo (Kenya) and Johnstone Mukabi and Omutibo Stars Band (Kenya).

Organized by the MIAF in a different country every year, ACCES is a pan-African event for music industry professionals to exchange ideas, discover new talent and create business linkages. ACCES 2018 will offer keynote speakers, panel discussions, presentations, networking sessions, exhibitions, showcases, training workshops, and visits to key music industry hubs in Nairobi.

More information at www.musicinafrica.net/acces


New Life for the Best of Sudanese Music

Various Artists – Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan (Ostinato Records, 2018)

Two Niles to Sing a Melody – The Violins & Synths of Sudan is a superb collection of music produced during the golden age of modern music Sudanese in the country’s capital Khartoum, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The anthology begins with the charming violin and accordion-fueled orchestral music of the 1970s that brought together Arabic influences and seductive African rhythms.

With the arrival of electronic instruments, the Sudanese musicians started using synthesizers and drum machines in the 1980s, mixing tradition with western influences.

In the mid-1980s, the increasing influence of Turabi Islamists led to crackdowns on alcohol consumption, burnings of records and the banning of songs about women. A brutal military coup in the late 1980s brought religious Turabi extremists to power and they increased the attacks on musicians. Some were tortured and many fled the country or were silenced.

Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan features essential artists such as Abdel El Aziz Al Mubar and Mohammed Wardi and many other outstanding musicians as well.

Finding the original recordings in Sudan was a difficult task. Thankfully, the influence of Sudanese music across the Sahara region was widespread in the 70s and 80s. Ostinato’s producers traveled to neighboring Ethiopia, Somalia, Jibuti, and Egypt in search of cassette tape and vinyl recordings.

With assistance from Sudanese associate and co-compiler Tamador Sheikh Eldin Gibreel, a once famous poet and actress in 1970s Khartoum, the Ostinato crew restored and remastered the music and has released it in various formats.

The CD version of the compilation contains two discs and is beautifully-packaged in a hard cover book that provides a historical overview of how the music thrived across Sudan and later died because of political and religious factors, as hardline Islamists targeted and persecuted musicians. The liner notes are written by Vik Sohonie and edited by Manish Melwan.



Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan is also available as a triple LP gatefold set.


The Ostinato team and their collaborators have done an outstanding job, giving life once more to some of the jewels of Sudanese music.

Buy Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan


African Stars and Rising Acts at La Mar de Músicas 2018 Music Festival

Kokoko!, Fatoumata Diawara, Songhoy Blues, Bamba Wassoulou Groove, Djanka Diabaté, Nélida Karr and Alex Ikot are the African artists set to perform between July 20 and 28, 2018 in Cartagena, Spain at world music festival La Mar de Músicas.

Music from Africa has always played a leading role in La Mar de Músicas. The festival has dedicated previous editions to Senegal, Mali, Morocco and South Africa. Even though this year is dedicated to the music of Denmark, African artists will be represented as well.

We have not stopped looking at Africa in any of our editions. We will continue being one of the seminal festivals in terms of music from the African continent in Spain,” said David Martínez Noguera, Culture councilman of the Cartagena City Council.



Representing the alternative music scene of the Congo, Kokoko! will perform on Saturday, July 21. Kokoko! is a hard to define band viewed from the western perspective. Their sounds emerge from the ghetto and the gambling dens of Kinshasa, where they avoided the censorship imposed by the government.

Kokoko! is part of the “do it yourself” concept in terms of the instruments they use. They invented their own instruments with scrap objects, given the impossibility of buying the traditional ones. A typewriter, a bucket of paint, a car’s cassette player … they have become the transmitters of their creations.

The band met French producer and African music fan, Débruit, and together they merged their sound universes, electrifying the raw sound of the Congolese and offering music that merges disco sounds, psychedelia and African traditions.


Songhoy Blues


La Mar de Músicas will welcome Songhoy Blues, all the way from Timbuktu. Formed by three young people who, despite the ban on music in their region, continued their work from their exile in Bamako. They released an album that says it all, Résistence, in which they collaborated with Iggy Pop. Songhoy Blues will be in Cartagena on July 22.

Another of the Malian bands that participate in La Mar de Músicas is Bamba Wassoulou Groove, an act in which three guitarists stand in the wake of the legendary Zani Diabaté, who died in 2011.

Bamba Wassoulou Groove perform new songs and classic pieces from the bambara repertoire that sound like psychedelic guitars and electric and hypnotic blues. On July 25 will play in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Cartagena (Cartagena city hall square).


Fatoumata Diawara – Photo by Angel Romero


Fatoumata Diawara, originally from Mali, is a singer-songwriter who fuses wassulu music, an original style from the south of the Niger River with jazz and soul, creating a blend of modernity and African traditions with ancestral echoes. Her precious voice, trained as a theater and film performer in France and Mali, unfolds without limits in her latest work, Fenfo, which she will present in the old courtyard of the Military Training Barracks of Cartagena on July 27.

Djanka Diabaté was discovered by reggae star Alpha Blondy, who encouraged her and helped her make her first recordings. Her music combines traditional Guinean sounds and zouk and soukus influences and has made her a celebrity in Ivory Coast. In Cartagena she will perform on Monday, July 23rd along with Totó la Momposina, winner of La Mar de Músicas 2018 award.


Nélida Karr


Nélida Karr is the contemporary musical revelation of the new rhythms and sounds of Equatorial Guinea. Vocalist, composer, producer, pianist, guitarist and cellist, she has always been surrounded by the wealth of her family’s musical heritage, the landscapes of her country, jazz and gospel music.

Nélida will perform in Cartagena on Thursday, July 26, as she is one of the winners of the Vis a Vis cultural cooperation project of Casa África, in which the Cartagena festival has participated once more. Casa África is a Spanish government agency that supports cultural exchange between Spain and African nations.


Alex Ikot


On July 28, the last day of the festival, and also thanks to the Vis a Vis project, Equatorial Guinean actor Alex Ikot will perform. He’s a musician who has always excelled in the music scene of his country as a percussionist and drummer, skills that he developed from his childhood.

Álex Ikot’s resume is perhaps the most international of Equatoguinean musicians, having played during his long career with some of the greatest African musicians, such as Manu Dibango and Youssou N’Dour.

More at lamardemusicas.cartagena.es

headline photo: Bamba Wassoulou Groove


Masterful and Electrifying Ne La Thiass

Cheikh Lo – Ne La Thiass (World Circuit, 2018), reissue

In 1995, while Coolio’s “Gansta Paradise,” TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” and Madonna’s “Take a Bow” were floating on the airwaves of Western pop stations, a wonderful collection of songs was cutting a swath through the musical streets of Africa’s Senegal. It just so happened that musician, singer, songwriter, composer and studio owner Youssou N’ Dour came across a demo by fellow Senegalese musician and composer Cheikh Lo.

Setting up Mr. Lo, along with percussionists Assane Thiam and Mbaye Dieye Faye and guitarist and arranger Oumar Sow, into Mr. N’Dour’s Xippi Studio in Dakar, the recording Ne La Thiass was born. Mr. N’Dour went so far as to lend his own vocals to that of Mr. Lo’s on the tracks “Set” and “Guiss Guiss.”

So, while we were being browbeaten by overplayed songs like Hootie &the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You” and Nicki French’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the good people of Senegal were dancing to Ne La Thiass’s “Boul De Tagle” and “Cheikh Ibra Fall.”

In 1996, World Circuit Records corrected this injustice by releasing an enhanced version of Ne La Thiass and the world was set to rights again as world music fans around the globe were treated to the Latin-flavored Senegalese goodness of Cheikh Lo.

Mr. N’Dour would go on to record scores of albums such as 7 Seconds: The Best of Youssou N’Dour, Joko: The Link and Africa Rekk, win a Grammy Award for 2004 album Egypt, appear as Olaudah Equiano in the movie Amazing Grace and earn an honorary doctoral degree in music from Yale University. Mr. Lo would go to record such albums as Bambay Guieej, Lamp Fall, Jamm and Balbalou, as well as collaborate with Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez’s on his recording Chanchullo singing alongside the esteemed Ibrahim Ferrer and work with Les Nubians and Manu Dibango for the Fela Kuti tribute recording of Red Hot and Riot.

So, now it could be that the planets have aligned just so or that we’ve been very good (this might be a bit of a stretch) that fate has once again smiled down upon us. Of course, it could just be the person at World Circuit sent to rummage through shelves and boxes that we owe our good fortune. This sweet luck would be the re-issue of Ne La Thiass from its original 1995 cassette tapes. Available on vinyl, CD and digital down load, with color booklet, Ne La Thiass has been lovingly remastered and has hit the streets.

Even after more than 20 years, Ne La Thiass hasn’t lost a bit of its keenly addictive appeal. It takes only the barest listen to opening track “Boul Di Tagale,” to fall under Cheikh Lo’s spell.
Weaving a magic spell out of vocals that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, acoustic guitar, double bass, flute, electric bass, keyboards, some truly spectacular mbalax rhythms and talking drum (and those who don’t like a good talking drum are out of the club), Ne La Thiass is masterful and electrifying as it makes its way through treats like title track “Ne La Thiass,” the feel-good feel conjured on “Ndogal,” the plummy rhythms of “Set” and the sweet swing of “Cheikh Ibra Fall.”

The intricate rhythms of “Bamba Sunu Goorgui” and the Youssou N’Dour vocals laced “Guiss Guiss” are additional icing on the cake that is Ne La Thiass.

There’s always that moment before listening to a re-issue where you wonder if it will be as good as you remembered. With Ne La Thiass it’s not as good as you remembered – it’s better. So intensely addictive, this is the music that if you listened to it all the time you’d never get anything done. And, I doubt you’d care.

Buy Ne La Thiass


Artist Profiles: Orchestre National de Barbes

Orchestre National de Barbés in 2008

Orchestre National de Barbés is a piece of North Africa stranded in the heart of Paris. In English, the name means The National Barbés Orchestra, implying that Barbés is a nation unto itself. It is a sentiment that few who visit the neighborhood would dispute.

The band’s story started in Belcourt, a working class section of Algiers, Algeria at the peak of the 1980 baby boom. Youcef Boukella’s older brothers listened to rock and bossa nova, people watched Cairo film classics on TV and tuned to Kabyl folk music on the radio. Outside the Belcourt alleyways, there were street peddlers, muezzins, Gnawa street performers, shaabi concerts, and ghetto blasters playing reggae, funk and raï.

My style of music goes back to my childhood in Belcourt,” explains Youcef Boukella. In 1985 he was offered a slot playing bass for the first Arabic-language rock group, T34. But when Youcef heard what visiting jazz musician Jeff Gardner was performing, that’s when he decided to leave home. Raï was all the rage when he arrived in Paris. He worked with Cheb Mami and Kabyl native Takfarinas at diaspora parties. Safy Boutella introduced him into underground jazz.

Larbi Dida comes from the town of Sidi bel Abbes and is a founding member of Raïna Raï, the rock-raï group that transformed the Algerian rock scene. Recognized by the Algerian media as a historic breakthrough, this group was the first rock group to use raï in its repertoire. Ever since Larba Dida moved to Paris in 1989, his has been one of the great Arabic voices in the French capital.

Aziz Sehmaoui is another pillar upholding Youcef’s vision. Raised in Marrakesh, Morocco this Sufi artist was nourished on a combination of Gnawa Arab-African beats and British-American pop performed in Morocco with various traditional and electric groups (Association Ziriab, Lemchaheb and others). Like Youcef, Aziz attempts to weld the mystical power of healing rhythms with today’s sounds.


En concert (1997)
Poulina (1999)
Alik (2008)
Rendez-vous Barbès (Le Chant Du Monde, 2010)
15 ans de scène, live (2012)
Dame de coeur (2014)


Artist Profiles: Les Nubians

Les Nubians

Les Nubians, the self-proclaimed Afropean sisters, Hélène and Célia Faussart, came into the public eye in 1999, when their U.S. debut, Princesses Nubiennes, became the most successful French-language album in more than a decade of Billboard Charts.

After that, the two sisters traveled the world, soaking up the sounds of reggae, afro-beat and electronica, allowing each to influence their own music.


Princesses Nubiennes (Virgin Records, 1998)
One Step Forward (Virgin Records, 2003)
Echos, Chapter One (Nubiatik, 2005)
Nü Revolution (Nubiatik/Shanachie, 2011)