Music is Africa as Africa is music. The continent is the only one in the world where you will find every activity done with music. Fishermen sing to draw their nets; mothers sing to calm their babies; women sing to cook; children sing while playing and men sing to chop down trees.
Music is in the DNA of Africans and what else do we call Africans who have achieved global acclaim with music if not legends. Africa is blessed with some music legends who have entertained the continent with splendor while gaining the attention of the world with their art.
Oh Afrika highlights some key music legends from Africa who will forever remain in the hearts of many people of African descent.
The only group in the list, Osibisa Band is the first African heritage band to receive world recognition. The Ghanaian Afrobeat band was founded in London in 1969. Their music is noted as the style that birthed “World Music” genre. Their music made them some of the richest ever African musicians. The band was made up of 4 expatriate Ghanaians and 3 Caribbean musicians. The band has close to 20 albums to their name. Their music has been used in several movies and they have toured the world with their music. They are popularly known for the songs “Welcome Home”, “We are Going” and “Celebrations”.
Angelique Kidjo is a Grammy award-winning Beninese Singer, songwriter, actress and activist. She is very popular for her elaborate and creative music videos and was named the Premier African Diva by Time Magazine. She is also named as one of Africa’s most iconic figures. Born on the 14th July 1960, Angelique currently lives in New York City and is a contributor to the New York Times. Angelique is not only celebrated for her music but her beauty and fluency in Yoruba, Fon, English and French.
Hugh Masekela was a South African trumpeter, composer and singer born on the 4th of April 1939. He was also a flugelhornist and cornetist. Described as the South African Father of Jazz Music, Hugh enjoyed worldwide acclaim and wrote the song sang by Miriam Makeba, Soweto Blue. He was also known for being instrumental against apartheid through music. Hugh was a philanthropist on the board of a not-for-profit organization, The Lunchbox Fund that fed students in township schools. He never had a stable marriage and was once married to Miriam Makeba from 1964 to 1966. Hugh died in 2018 from prostate cancer.
Miriam Makeba, nicknamed Mama Africa was a South African female musician born in 1932. She entered the entertainment industry at a time when women were frowned upon for taking up such a career. She began singing professionally after having her first child at 17. She sang with the Cuban Brothers. After featuring in the anti-apartheid film, Come Back Africa, Miriam gained popularity in the USA. Miriam had a short marriage with Hugh Masekela and lost her fame in the USA when she began singing music on apartheid. Miriam fell ill in Italy and suffered a fatal heart attack after performing her hit song “Pata Pata” on 9th November 2008.
Lucky Dube is considered as one of the best Reggae artists to come from Africa. The Black South African Rastafarian was born on the 3rd of August 1964 and worked as a gardener before doing music. He recorded 22 albums in English, Zulu and Afrikaans. He was South Africa’s Biggest Selling Reggae Artiste and penetrated the western scene going on tour. His music is considered as thoughtful and filled with many personal experiences. In October 2007 he was killed in Johannesburg after dropping off his kids at their uncle’s house. He is best known for his song on Unity “Different Colors, One People”.
Known as Fela Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti is a Nigerian born musician who made waves for his nonconformity, ideals and radical character. Born on the 15th of October 1938, Fela was a musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist, human right activist and political unorthodox. Known as the pioneer of Afrobeat, Fela enjoyed a stunning popularity through his music. He was also a human rights activist and Pan Africanist who faced many issues with Nigerian politicians and law due to the fact that he was confident in speaking his mind either through music or random conversations. He had a band called the Afrika ’70, a nightclub in the Empire Hotel called The Afrika Shrine and he set up the Kalakuta Republic which was his music studio. He made the decision to sing in Pidgin music. Fela Kuti and his music is a huge influence on creatives all over the world. The music festival in Nigeria, Felabration, is in his honour and it’s one the biggest music festivals in Africa. He died on the 2nd of August 1997. Some of his popular songs include Lady and Zombie.