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Africa's finest musicians of all times

Africa is known to produce the finest music gems, here Carob looks at some of the most successful musicians from Africa.

Benin

Angelique Kidjo was born in Benin. Her first performing experience was as a six year old actor-dancer in her mother's theatre troupe. From that point on, music became her sole passion. As a teenager, Kidjo was inspired to write songs by the sounds of Hendrix, Santana, Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, James Brown, the Beatles and Aretha Franklin; before her twentieth birthday she was one of Benin's few professional female vocalists. Difficulties with the political environment in her homeland, prompted Kidjo to relocate to Paris. Thriving in the city's African music underground, she progressed from singer of Jasper van' Hof 's fusion band Pili Pili, to leader of her own band within five years. Established as one of Paris's top live acts, Kidjo was quickly discovered by Chris Blackwell and signed on Mango. Today, Angelique Kidjo is a bonafide global phenomenon whose performances are always legendary events

Her style of music varies from afro-funk, reggae, samba, salsa, gospel, jazz, Zairean rumba, souk and makossa which combined together creates her soulful unique sound of music. Wrasse Records have compiled with the help of Angelique Kidjo a best of album called KEEP ON MOVING - this album is the Best of all of her work, combining 5 of her albums. She has since released Ivory Soul on Sony Records.

Mali

Salif Keita (born August 25, 1949) is an internationally recognized afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the Golden Voice of Africa, but because he is person with albinism and a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita.This royal heritage meant that he should never have become a singer, which was deemed to be a griot’s role.
Keita was born in the city of Djoliba. He was outcast by his family and ostracized by the community because he has the condition of albinism, a sign of bad luck in Mandinka culture.He left Djoliba for Bamako in 1967, where he joined the government sponsored Super Rail Band de Bamako. In 1973 Keita joined the group, Les Ambassadeurs. Keita and Les Ambassadeurs fled political unrest in Mali during the mid-1970s for Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and subsequently changed the group’s name to Les Ambassadeurs Internationales. The reputation of Les Ambassadeurs Internationales rose to the international level in the 1970s and in 1977 Keita received a National Order award from the president of Guinea, Sékou Touré.
Keita moved to Paris in 1984 to reach a larger audience. His music combines traditional West African music styles with influences from both Europe and the Americas, while maintaining an overall Islamic style. Musical instruments that are commonly featured in Keita's work include balafons, djembes, guitars, koras, organs, saxophones, and synthesizers.
Keita found success in Europe as one of the African stars of world music, but his work was sometimes criticised for the gloss of its production and for the occasional haphazard quality. However, shortly after the turn of the Millennium he returned to Bamako in Mali to live and record. His first work after going home, 2002’s Moffou, was hailed as his best album in many years, and Keita was inspired to build a recording studio in Bamako, which he used for his latest album, M'Bemba, released in October 2005.

South Africa

Affectionately known as MaBrrr by her fans, she was sometimes described as the "Queen of African Pop" Her bold stage antics earned a reputation for "outrageousness"

Fassie was born on the 3 rd of November 1964 in Langa, Cape Town. In  1981, at the age of 16, Brenda Fassie left Cape Town for Soweto Johannesburg to seek her fortune as a singer. Fassie first joined the vocal group Joy (filling in for one of the members who was on maternity leave)and later became the lead singer for a township music group called Brenda and the Big Dudes.

That year she had a breakthrough hit with "Weekend Special," singing in the disco-flavored "bubblegum" style. "Weekend Special" sold over 200,000 copies and had an extended life in cover versions and remixes, including one by New York producer Van Gibbs in 1986 that spent eight weeks on Billboard magazine's Hot Black Singles chart. The song's international success led to a Fassie tour of the United States, Europe, Australia, and Brazil.

After parting ways with the Big Dudes, Fassie partnered with producer Sello "Chicco" Twala to record the 1989 album Too Late for Mama. Among several hits that became widely known in South Africa's black townships was "Black President," a single that looked forward to the dismantling of the country's apartheid system. That song was banned for a time by the South African government, but Fassie's popularity only increased.

Nigeria

Fela Kuti was born on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Beginning in the 1960s, Kuti pioneered his own unique style of music called "Afrobeat." Rebelling against oppressive regimes through his music came at a heavy cost. Kuti was arrested 200 times and endured numerous beatings, but continued to write political lyrics, producing 50 albums before he died on August 2, 1997, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Zimbabwe


Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi (born 22 September 1952 in Highfield, Harare) is a Zimbabwean musician, businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region. Tuku is considered . Zimbabwe's most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time.

Mtukudzi began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Their single Dzandimomotera went gold and Tuku's first album followed, which was also a major success. Mtukudzi is also a contributor to Mahube, Southern Africa's "supergroup".

With his husky voice, he has become the most recognised voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond. A member of Zimbabwe's KoreKore group, with Nzou Samanyanga as his totem, he sings in the nation's dominant Shona language along with Ndebele and English. He also incorporates elements of different musical traditions, giving his music a distinctive style, known to fans as Tuku Music. Mtukudzi has had a number of tours around the world. He has been on several tours in the UK, US and Canada to perform for large audiences.