Tag Archives: African music

An Excellent Black Atlantic 2019 Festival

The second edition of the Black Atlantic series brought an excellent sampling of African and Afro-rooted music to Durham, North Carolina.

Kinobe, Derek Gripper and Jaja Bashengezi – Photo by Angel Romero

The first concert featured South African musician Derek Gripper, Congolese guitarist Jaja Bashengezi and Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe. Classically-trained Gripper has adapted the kora technique to the guitar. Kinobe played a fascinating Baganda harp called ndongo. This was a relaxed, virtuosic concert, focusing on the melodic side of African music. Derek Gripper has two albums related to his kora reinterpretations: One Night on Earth (2012) and Libraries on Fire (2016).

Fatoumata Diawara – Photo by Angel Romero

One of the highlights of the festival was Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara. I had seen her a few years ago when she was a rising artist. Years later, she has blossomed into one of the finest acts from West Africa and the world music scene in general. Her sold-out concert featured an explosive mix of modernized Malian traditional music, Afrobeat and Afro-rock. She speaks English very well and engaged the audience easily with her charisma and charm.

What surprised me (and the audience) the most is when she picked up her electric guitar several times and started soloing, ranging from Malian desert blues to Afro-rooted rock. Clearly spectacular. Fatoumata’s recent albums include Fatou and Fenfo.

Noura Mint Seymali – Photo by Angel Romero

The third concert in the series featured the captivating, trance-like Western Saharan sound of Mauritanian singer and ardine player Noura Mint Seymali along with her electric band. Her discography includes Tzenni (2014) and Arbina (2016).

Daymé Arocena – Photo by Angel Romero

Next was another highlight, spectacular Cuban singer Daymé Arocena. She also expressed herself in English very well, encouraged dancing and call and response interaction with the audience, and explained how Cuba is proud of its African and Spanish roots. Daymé bridges traditional Cuban, Afro-Cuban and American jazz. Her dazzling band featured world class Cuban instrumentalists, who obviously love jazz-rock fusion when they get opportunities to jam. Daymé’s highly recommended albums include Nueva Era (2015) and Cubafonía (2017).

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Friday and Saturday concerts, although a colleague reported that the Dafnis Prieto Big Band concert was stunning. The show featured a 17-member big band performing Afro-Cuban jazz and ballads. This format appears in Dafnis Prieto’s album Back to the Sunset.

Kudos to Duke Performances for this highly successful series and special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney for their support.


Angelique Kidjo to Release Celia Cruz Tribute Album

Angelique Kidjo – Celia

African music star Angelique Kidjo is set to release her new album Celia (Verve/Universal Music France) on April 19, 2019. The new recording reimagines and celebrates “The Queen of Salsa,” Cuban artist Celia Cruz. Guests on the album include Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums, Meshell Ndegeocello on bass, Sons Of Kemet, and Gangbé Brass Band.

Angelique Kidjo is currently touring the United States, presenting songs from her 2018 album Remain In Light, which reconceptualized the music of influential rock band Talking Heads.

She will be at the Savannah Music Festival on April 6th, 2019 and at Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina on April 8th. Other tour dates include:

April 11
Ulster Performing Arts Center
Kingston, NY

April 12
McCarter Theatre Center
Princeton, NJ


Ugandan Global Travels

Nsimbi – Nsimbi

Nsimbi – Nsimbi (Imara Records / Baboon Forest, 2018)

Nsimbi brings together American world fusion vocalist Miriam Tamar and Ugandan singer-rapper and spoken word artist GNL Zamba. With the help of superb East African musicians, multi-instrumentalist Jaja Bashengezi and percussionist Herbert Kinobe, Nsimbi combines East African melodies and a wide-range of pan-African beats with exquisite electric and acoustic guitar and western vocals techniques.

The album includes vocals in various languages, including English, Swahili, Luganda and Lingala.


The Apollo Theater and World Music Institute to Present Africa Now 2019

The Apollo Theater, in partnership with World Music Institute, will present the 7th edition of the annual Africa Now! festival on Saturday, April 13 at 8:00 p.m.

This year’s lineup includes African dancehall artists Patoranking (Nigeria), Seyi Shay (Nigeria), Buffalo Souljah (Zimbabwe), and Afrobeat sensation Kaleta & Super Yamba Band (Benin/Nigeria) as part of AFRICA NOW! hosted by Young Prince and music by DJ mOma.


Gaby Sappington, Executive Director of World Music Institute, says: “In our seventh year of partnering with Apollo Theater in presenting the most exciting and relevant voices of today’s African music scene, this year’s Africa Now! celebrates the energy and rhythms of Dancehall artists. We are excited about the hand-picked line-up and look forward to seeing these outstanding artists share their talent on the Apollo’s legendary stage.”

Seyi Shay

African Dancehall music has become increasingly more mainstream since the 1980s. Most recently, artists such as Drake and Wizkid have infused Dancehall into their music, introducing the beautiful blends of Caribbean and African beats to a global audience. Part of the Apollo’s mission is to recognize and spotlight movements that have shaped the contemporary musical landscape. Now, in its seventh year, Africa Now! continues to highlight the sounds from the continent and the artists who are pushing Africa’s music scene forward,” said Apollo Theater Executive Producer, Kamilah Forbes.

Buffalo Souljah

Kaleta & Super Yamba Band

The Apollo Theater
253 West 125th Street, New York City


Mokoomba Revals Spring 2019 North American Tour


Mokoomba, Zimbabwe’s leading roots music act returns to North America for a tour of Canada and the United States this April. The popular world music band is set to perform at Brooklyn Bowl, The Library of Congress, Freight and Salvage (Berkeleyn California), UC San Diego’s Price Center, and more.

The group has released three albums: Kweseka (2009), Rising Tide (2012) and Luyando (2017). Mokoomba will be recording their much-anticipated fourth album later this year. More about Mokoomba.

Mokoomba 2019 North American Spring Tour Dates:

4/6: GlobaLocal, Woodstock, VT
4/7: GlobaLocal, Woodstock, VT
4/9: State House, New Haven, CT
4/10: Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
4/11: Music Haven Stage, Schenectady, NY
4/12: Somerville Theater, Boston, MA,
4/15: Library of Congress, Washington DC
4/16: Spire Arts Center, Frederick MD
4/19: Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, CA
4/20: Swayz Ballroom, Dallas, TX
4/24: Price Center at UCSD, San Diego, CA
4/26: Town Hall, Seattle, WA
4/27: Imperial Vancouver, Vancouver, BC


Artist Profiles: Osibisa


Osibisa exploded onto the music world in 1971 with a pulsating and vibrant sound. Translated from Ghanaian, Osibisa means “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. Their innovative music style matched the exciting progressive rock scene of the era. Osibisa’s albums featured fantasy artwork by Roger Dean, an artist connected to some of the most iconic progressive rock album covers.

The band’s percussive influence began to manifest itself within the music of their contemporaries. The Osibisa poly-rhythms and percussive breaks were to be an integral feature of the disco boom that was to follow in the late 1970s. Their unique fusion of Africa, Caribbean, rock, jazz, Latin and R&B paved the way for other potent music force such as Bob Marley and the emergence of African music in the 80’s. Indeed, Osibisa are seen by many as the Godfathers of World Music.

One of the important reasons for Osibisa’s enduring success has been their highly energetic and extravagant stage show. However their music is still an influential factor in dance music of today with no fewer than a dozen covers of “Sunshine Day”, which was also used for the Euro 2000 football tournament.

For many years now, they toured tirelessly, headlining numerous festivals and performing in every far-flung comer of the globe. Highlights have included a major tour of India, which resulted in a No 1 Gold Album – an unprecedented achievement for a Western band. The mid 90′ s saw a re-emergence of Osibisa in North America where African and Reggae music are gaining in popularity. The band also had a cameo in the Ken Russell TV film about Cropready Festival in Oxford during this time.

Former President Jerry J Rawlings honored Osibisa in Ghana, where they played a series of concerts celebrating their homecoming. “The enthusiasm shown by the Ghanaian people, especially the youth was quite amazing” recalled Teddy Osei, Osibisa’s bandleader. United Kingdom Europe


Osibisa (MCA Records, 1971)
Woyaya (MCA Records, 1971)
Heads (MCA Records, 1972)
Super Fly T.N.T. soundtrack (Buddah Records, 1973)
Happy Children (Warner Bros. Records, 1973)
Osibirock (Warner Bros. Records, 1974)
Welcome Home (Island Records, 1975)
Ojah Awake (Bronze, 1976)
Black Magic Night (Bronze, 1977)
Mystic Energy (Calibre, 1980)
Celebration (Celluloid, 1980)
Osibisa Like’s Live ‎(Multi-Sound, 1981)
Unleashed-live (Magnet, 1982)
Live At The Marquee (Celluloid, 1983)
Movements (in-akustik, 1989)
African Criss Cross (Pulsar, 1990)
Monsore (Red Steel Music, 1996)
Live At Cropredy ‎(Red Steel Music, 1998)
Aka Kakra – Acoustic ‎(Red Steel Music, 2001)
African Dawn, African Flight (Red Steel Music, 2003)
Wango Wango, compilation (2003)
Osee Yee ‎(Cadiz Music, 2009)
Osibisa Afro Mix ‎(Gonzo Multimedia, 2016)
Osibisa Tribal ‎(Gonzo Multimedia, 2016)


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)