Striking a Chord

It goes without saying that African music has been influencing music around the world for generations. In recent history, the likes of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ali Farka Touré, and Angelique Kidjo have garnered international appreciation and acclaim.

The recent passing of one of the continent’s music legends, Papa Wemba, inspired us at AS+A to take a look at African music today. The late King of Rumba fearlessly created his own sound, pioneering modern Congolese soukous music and popularizing it across Africa. Over four decades he was a musical innovator and fashion icon, claiming recognition at a time when music and style from the continent was little known outside its borders.

In the past we have written about the renaissance of old sounds – namely therebirth of EthioJazz. Now however, an alternative music scene is on the rise across Africa and international audiences are taking note. At SXSW, one of the world’s premier music festivals, artists from the across the continent have been featured and celebrated for their unique sounds. Nigerian, Kenyan, Congolese and South African artists were featured at this year’s SXSW, and covered genres ranging from Afrobeats and Hip Hop, to Electro Pop and House.

International record labels have also taken note. Following a long interlude since the signing of Nigerian superstar D’Banj to Sony Entertainment in 2012, the recent signing of Tanzanian musician Alikiba to Sony Entertainment (the first East African artist on the label,) Nigerian star Tiwa Savage to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation,and South African producer Nkosinathi Maphumulo aka DJ Black Coffee to Ultra Records, show a sustained– if not growing – interest in music emerging from the continent.

The African renaissance is also a pan-African one, with artists across the continent collaborating and co-performing on stages from Uganda to South Africa – at theNyege Nyege festival in Uganda, the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival, theBushfire Festival in Swaziland, and many others.

At AS+A two of our artists are inventing new sounds: Equatorial House by ProducerSaint Evo The Myth, and Bengatronics by DJ Gregg Tendwa.

Musicians across the continent are producing music on their own terms, and it’s striking a chord.

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