The Big Easy's musical cup runneth over, but whenever we play a team a second or third time, I like to shift the focus. In this case, I'm looking at you, New Orleans Hornet-soon-to-be-a-Pelican forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Sure, you were born in Atlanta, but three cool things about you:
- Your name means "The Chief has Arrived."
- You come from a line of Nigerian kings
- You played for the Nigerian team in the Olympics
This is a cause for celebration. Or, if not celebration, for discussing African music. Yes, it's a bit ridiculous to use the space typically devoted to one state's tuneful heritage for an entire continent's output, especially one that has had a tremendous influence on American music.
And I am not the guy to do a pithy yet complete overview. I have listened to a fair amount of African music and enjoy its many flavors. But my knowledge just skims the surface.
So let me share a half dozen or so acts I have come across and then I will wait and pray for the comments section to lead me from Algeria to Zimbabwe with great musical stops every stop of the way.
South African Miriam Makeba, known as Mama Afrika, was the first African singer to make a commercial mark in the US, back in the 1960s.
I highly recommend this album:
Another, more contemporary, wonderful female vocalist hails from Benin. Are you familiar with Angelique Kidjo? The other day one of our musical discussions had a nice run of various versions of "Summertime." Here's her's:
Mali gives us this talented duo, Amadou and Mariam:
Let's liven things up with Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars:
To Algeria for the King of Rai, Cheb Khaled:
Whatever your religious persuasion (or lack thereof), it's hard not to be uplifted by the Soweto Gospel Choir:
Finally, Zap Mama (essentially Marie Daulne and whomever) has evolved over the years; but I loved their/her a cappella debut, released on David Byrne's label in the early 1990's.
None of these acts are remotely obscure - but they are all good. I didn't even tap into Nigeria (sorry, chief), which has some heavy hitters. So feel free to go there and anywhere else on the world's second largest continent.