Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

W is for WiFi ...and...Wallets... and...Well, just one more sip of Wine

is for

Fadhili Williams (1938-2001) – This is the oldest recorded version of ‘Malaika’ available online, Williams was the first person to record this song with his band ‘The Jambo Boys’ in the early 60’s. The authorship is controversial. Many think it was written by a Tanzanian musician called Adam Salim who was never credited in the recordings and did not make any money off the song. He wrote it for his girlfriend whose parents didn’t approve of the match and forced her to marry someone else. But Williams also claimed the same experience and inspiration, and the song. The authorship was contested legally and settled in favour of Williams in 1986, however many Tanzanians continue to believe that Salim was the rightful owner. Miriam Makeba was taken to court by Williams also for singing it. Read more about the history of the Wrangling over this song, and/or enjoy listening!

Wazimbo – is the stage name of Humberto Carlos Benfica, the most famous singer of a genre called Marrabenta, a fusion of Mozambican traditional dance rhythms with Portuguese folk. Enjoy!

And Wizkid who is huge in Nigerian music, here’s one of his tracks featuring the famous Fela Kuti.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

V is for Valiha...and...Viticulture

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Virtuoso from Mali - Vieux Farka Toure, the son of Ali Farka Toure. Magic fingers playing the desert blues!

And also Neide Van-dunem, a singer from Angola – watch her music video featuring Calo Pascoal below:

And last but not the least, here’s late Brenda Fassie - the Black Madonna, one of the top Vocalists from Africa with Vulindlela, which means ‘Open the gates’ a celebratory song sung from the POV of a parent whose son’s getting married. Also another great musician, singer-songwriter from South Africa - Vusi Mahlasela, who is simply known as The Voice - worth checking out by clicking this link here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

U is for Ugali... and... Ujamaa

is for

First off, a Ghanaian Highlife band called Uhuru Dance Band, singing a track called Umraro

If you want a quick round up of the history of Highlife, go here.

And here's another Ghanaian hiphop artiste - Joey B, with a title called U x me

I have a lot of choices for you today – Cesaria Evora and Dorota Miśkiewicz with Um Pincelada

Finally Under African Skies composed by Paul Simon and sung by him and Miriam Makeba. Controversial at the time because Simon travelled to SA in defiance of a cultural ban in place due to the policy of apartheid. He recorded with African musicians and subsequently faced criticism about cultural appropriation as well. But as far as I am concerned, that’s just two of my absolute favourite musicians’ art together – sublime! 

Monday, 23 April 2018

T is for Tourism ... and ... Trophies

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Tinariwen - a Tuareg (Amazigh) band from Mali, formed in a refugee camp. Internationally renowned since the 2000’s, they won the Grammy in 2012 for their album Tassilli. Very guitar driven, stirring music, take a listen to their track Tiwayyen -

Ali Farka Toure - the most renowned musician out of West Africa and the grand old man of the desert blues, can’t not include him! He was the first musician to popularise Malian music across the world. Read more about him here.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

S is for Safari... and... Songs... and... Slavery

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Oumou Sangaré is a multi-awarded musician and a leading exponent of the Wassoulou genre of Mali - its performers are largely women, and its lyrics address themes and subjects relevant to the lives of women in the region. Here is a song from her 2009 Grammy nominated album Seya -

And  for a completely different listening experience, here’s Tiwa Savage, with Standing Ovation featuring Olamide, both Nigerian contemporary artistes.

Friday, 20 April 2018

R is for Rai... and... Red Ochre ...

is for
Rai is an Algerian genre, it first developed in the 1920’s in Oran. The word rai in Arabic means 'opinion' or 'advice.' Cheikha Rmitti is revered as ‘the mother of the genre.’ Originally sung by women, Rai rejected the then conventional rules of refined Arabic poetry and used a gritty, often vulgar colloquial lyrics and a fusion of Arab and Western musical influences, which found a ready resonance among the underprivileged classes, but was unpopular with the posh audiences and authorities. Rmitti travelled to France and for most of her singing career sang for Algerian immigrants there. Rai was rediscovered in the 90's and became a hit with world audiences with Cheb Khaled being the most well-known exponent of the art. 

Listen to a Rai song by Cheikha Rmitti and also by a later 1980's Algerian band Raina Rai below:  

Ruff n Smooth are a Ghanaian band, but they sing in pidgin English which makes them popular in Nigeria and in wider Africa, even abroad. Take a listen

From the North to the West and then onto South to Laurika Rauch, a legendary singer from South Africa, here with a lovely slow Afrikaans track. She is bilingual - sings both in English and Afrikaans. Read more about her here

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Q is for Qongqothwane ...and ...Qart-Hadasht ...

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el-Qasabgi (1892-1966, Egypt) with a composition called Zikrayat (My Memories) performed here by the National Arab Orchestra from Michigan at the Lincoln Centre, DC. El-Qasabgi is considered one of the greatest North African Arab composers (1892-1966) and a maestro of the oud. 

And here is Q-chillah from Tanzania singing a genre called Bongo Flava, less of the Eastern vibe here. This is a version developed from American hip hop with wider African influences – Afrobeats and Tanzanian Taarab and Dansi. Lyrics are usually in Swahili or English.

And last but not the least - the click song, Qongqothwane, sung by the iconic artiste Miriam Makeba and covered by many others.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Road Less Travelled - Write... Edit... Publish... April 2018

If you’re looking for my A-Z post click here. Though this one qualifies too (P for Prose! P for Prompt.)
Today it’s time to get back to Write…Edit…Publish…with our entries for the prompt -

and I'm offering this after scrapping the poem I first did weeks ago. This is directly inspired by the Frost poem, though it has absolutely nothing to do with woodland pathways or anything half as lovely. Three part flash and I'm hoping they can be read in any order and I'd value your inputs as to whether you think so or no. And due apos to the poet and all, but I can't bring myself to write travelled as traveled, drives me crazy, sorry! :)

P is for Plantations...and...Photographs...

is for

Percussion to die for! Here is Babatunde Olatunji from Nigeria: 

This track is a super popular one from his album Drums of Passion, which introduced African percussion to global audiences in 1959. The track went onto sales of millions and has been covered by other artists as well.

And here’s P Square, also from Nigeria, band of twin brothers Peter and Paul Okoye. A different era, a different genre and a different sound altogether – take a listen.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

O is for Old men ...and Olduvai...

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Osibisa, the Afropop/Highlife African heritage band formed in Britain by an expat Ghanaian, I'm giving you their Ojah. They became popular in the years I was growing up in Nigeria and toured India in 1980, though I never got the chance to watch them perform live. 'Inspired' some Bollywood tunes as well, if I'm not mistaken. But all happy memories, happy listening!

And Koffi Olomide from DRC, one of the top ten richest musicians from Africa with Obrigado. His music’s popular, he has many gold albums to his name, but the man seems unpleasant - a pretty unsavoury reputation for assaulting people. Don't quite get why making great art and/or having oodles of cash should give anyone a free pass to be obnoxious to their fellow humans - thoroughly disapprove.

Monday, 16 April 2018

N is for Nok... and... scarecrow Noggins ...and an unfinished Narrative...

is for

Youssou N’dour from Senegal, a multi-awardee (including the Grammy) musician and cultural icon across Africa and the world. 

And also Yannick Noah, of Cameroonian origin and a French resident, he has represented France in world tennis tournaments, then taken up music after retirement from sport - a tennis star turned star musician. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

M is for Music...Motherese...and...Motive...

is for

Massive! - loads to say today! Firstly, here is the late South African diva Miriam Makeba with Malaika -

There is much sound and fury around the authorship of this ultra-famous 40’s East African song of ill-starred love. The earliest recording was by Fadhili Williams though most people are now of the view that it was written by Adam Salim in 1945, a not-so-famous Tanzanian song-writer who at the time lived in Nairobi. The lyrics are simple, particularly the melody is quite unforgettably haunting. I heard it first in my teens and didn’t have a clue about the meanings (no YouTube, A-Z lyrics and translations then!) but loved it instantly. And all these decades later, it can “still take me back where my memories remain” – no mean thing.

A whole legion of artistes have covered it, including later singers from East Africa (Mombasa Roots) and West Africa (Angelique Kidjo), well naturally. However, covers are not only restricted to Africa, artistes right around the world – from India (Lata Mangeshkar, Usha Uthup) and Germany/Caribbean (Boney M) and US (Harry Belafonte, The Brothers Four) sung it through the 70’s and 80’s. It’s eternally popular – I heard it performed live in two restaurants in Kenya during my visit last year. Talk about earworms! and classics.

And coming back to the 21st century, here is the West African vocalist Eneida Marta, who sings in Portuguese/Creole, with a super-lilting number - 

Also a quick mention of Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (1952-) since we are on the subject, a famous Zimbabwean musician who, apart from being a vocalist and guitarist, is a social activist, businessman, educator, philanthropist and one of the most recognised African cultural icons. He is the UNICEF goodwill ambassador for the southern Africa region. Take a listen to him -

And if you are in a hurry today, this is where I suggest we say goodbye, for I am about to get into a Megaramble about Music…