Unarguably distinguished as the natural heirs of the more established era; the older generation, a new strain of African voices – artistes with soul, heart and amazing talent, are springing forth everywhere throughout the continent. The question is, among these young, new blood musicians, who should lovers of African music be paying special attention to and/or getting thumps up for?
For last two decaeds, a couple of incredible artistes have ruled Africa’s musical scene. You know their names, isn’t it? They include: Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour and Fela Kuti.
However a new set of African voices is ascending and singing out – their solid, lyrical faculties and smoldering vocals exciting their audiences across the entire planet.
The number on the list of these newly breed African voices include;
1. Fatoumata Diawara
”Fatoumata Diawara has been hailed as the African newcomer of the year. In what, admittedly, has not been a classic period for new music from the continent, she has succeeded as a stylish performer who hasn’t put a foot wrong.” (The Guardian newspaper)
Representing a new generation that carries the tradition of Mali music championed by Oumou Sangare and Rokia Traore, Fatoumata (born in 1982) is a Malian musician currently living in France. Born in the Ivory Coast to Malian parents, Diawara moved to France to pursue acting, appearing in Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s 1999 feature film La Genèse, Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, le rêve du python, in the internationally renowned street theatre troupe Royal Deluxe, and played a leading role in the musical Kirikou et Karaba.
She later took up the guitar and began composing her own material, writing songs that blend Wassalou traditions of Southern Mali with international influences.
Noted for her distinct “sensuous voice,” she has performed and recorded with Oumou Sangaré, AfroCubism, Dee Dee Bridgewater (on Red Earth: A Malian Journey), and the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Her new EP was released May 9, 2011 and her debut album Fatou with World Circuit Records was released in September 2011.
Fatou is definitely a diva to watch out for.
In a recent Sydney Morning Herald interview, the renowned Baaba Maal, spoke out about Africa’s new talent, citing upcoming performers who deserve to be lionised.
”Two artists spring to mind that have recently impressed me with superb albums and brilliant live shows,” he said in a lengthy email from his home in the Mali capital of Bamako.
”They are Bombino, a young Tuareg guitarist and songwriter from Agadez in Niger. His playing live is sensational and puts me in mind of artists like John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Jimmy Reed. With lyrics that reflect the many problems and struggles of his people, he has the potential to be a great force in the future.
”Another is Samba Toure, a singer from Dabi in the heart of Mali. He takes the spirit of his namesake (Ali Farka Toure) into the 21st century. His album Crocodile Blues covers themes of family and moral standing, as a guide to the young.”
”I met and was very inspired by the performance of Gasandji last summer at the Womad festival in the UK. She is from the Congo but now lives in Paris. Her last album is a great introduction to her music and very much reflects the live show. I would love to work with her sometime in the future.
”A great singer I have performed with recently, both at the Women of the World Festival in London and at my festival Blues du Fleuve in Senegal , is the very beautiful Annie Flore Batchiellilys.
”From Gabon, her voice is both ancient and modern, and on stage she draws you in with her songs until time stops; a true star. She enters the stage as if in a trance and just captivates every audience.
”I must also say that a recent re-release of an old album by Nahawa Doumbia called La Grande Cantatrice Malienne, on the fabulous label Awesome Tapes from Africa, is well worth searching out. She is from Mali and her music is so simple but so complex! Thank you, Awesome, for releasing this gem.”
Another relative newbie is Asa, whose powerful vocals have been said to be channeling Amy Winehouse at her peak, and lyrics that recall Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye.
3. Last but not the least is Nigeria’s Asa
Asa (pronouced ‘Asha’) was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where she found a home in her father’s extensive and eclectic collection of records from soul classics to traditional Nigerian music. Inspired by the sounds and messages of artists such as Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey she began crafting her own songs. It wasn’t until she was studying in Paris that she truly formed her musical style, immersing herself in the songs of her musical contemporaries — Erika Badu, D’Angelo, Rafael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill and Angelique Kidjo.
Asa fuses pop, r&b, world, funk, soul and reggae in a debut eponymous album where she sings in both English and Yoruba. Featuring impeccable percussion, a funky Hammond organ and reggae-infused bass, her first album was a social and political statement that gained Asa global recognition as a charismatic songstress with a trademark husky voice, unafraid to tackle serious issues with intelligence and confidence.
Her second album (2011), ‘Beautiful Imperfection’ is more lifting and bright, featuring, an up-tempo rock-tinged tracks with and romantic ballads.
With this wealth of new talent, It’s clear that African music is nowhere near reaching a creative impasse. The depth and breadth of African creativity carries on to evolve as the continent continues to find its global voice – exciting times indeed!