Remembering African Music Legends | Welcome to Linda Ikeji's Blog





Saturday, 21 July 2007

Remembering African Music Legends

In the history of African music, there have been men and women who stood out, with the strenght of their voice, sound, beat, rhythm, lyrics and style.

Musicians who used their talent to make a difference, not only to people around them but the world in general. Everyone who lived in their time and even afterwards, felt the power of their music. Incredibly talented people who have left their prints in the sands of time...

Some of these individuals started, but most of them popularised what is known today as the African sound.

Today I want to pay tribute to some of these great men and women, some are dead, some are still alive...but one thing they all had in common, is great music...

I will start with the biggest of them all, abami eda, the greatest African artist that ever lived (I stand to be corrected)...

Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Fela Anikulapo was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, on October 15, 1938 - August 2, 1997, He was a multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick

His songs include...
Why Black Man Dey Suffer - 1971
Na Poi - 1972
Open & Close -1972
Shakara - 1972
Roforofo Fight - 1973
Gentleman - 1974
Alagbon Close - 1975
Noise for Vendor Mouth - 1975
Confusion - 1975
Expensive Shit - 1976
Ikoyi Blindness - 1976
Zombie - 1976
Yellow Fever - 1977
Sorrow, Tears and Blood - 1978
Shuffering and Shmiling - 1979
Unknown Soldier - 1979
I.T.T. (International Thief Thief) - 1980
Authority Stealing - 1981
Coffin for Head of State - 1983
Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense - 1989
Beasts of No Nation - 1989
Confusion Break Bones - 1990

He died August 2, 1997 at the age of 59

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a Grammy Award-winning male group from South Africa that sings in the vocal style of isicathamiya and mbube. They rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his album, Graceland. They were formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960 (who still leads the group today) and became one of South Africa's prolific recording artists, with their releases receiving gold and platinum disc honors. The group has now become a mobile academy, teaching people about South Africa and its culture

Ali Farka Toure

Malian singer and guitarist, Ali Ibrahim "Farka" Touré was born in October 31, 1939 in Timbuktu, Mali. He was one of the African continent's most internationally renowned musicians. Ali Farka Toure took up the guitar at the age of ten, but it wasn't until about age 17 that he really got a handle on the instrument.
During a visit to Bamako in the late 1960's, artists such as John Lee Hooker introduced Ali Farka Toure to African-American music. At first, he thought that Hooker was playing Malian music, but then realized that this music coming from America had deep African roots. During those years Ali Farka Toure composed, sang and performed with the famous Troupe 117, a group created by the Malian government after the country's independence.
His recording career began in France in 1976. For years he followed a successful career in West Africa adapting traditional songs and rhythms in ten languages from Mali's enormous cultural wealth.
In September 2005, he released the album In the Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with Toumani Diabaté, for which he received a second Grammy award. His last album, Savane, was posthumously released in July 2006. November 2006).
He died on March 7 2006, at the age of 67 from bone marrow cancer.

Johnny Clegg

Jonathan (Johnny) Clegg, was born June 7, 1953 in Rochdale (near Manchester), Lancashire, (UK), is a popular musician from South Africa, who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka. Sometimes called "The White Zulu", he is an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu and English lyrics, and African / European / Celtic music styles. Johnny Clegg, became interested in Zulu street music and took part in traditional Zulu dance competitions.
Clegg formed the first inter-racial South African band, Juluka, with gardener and Zulu street musician Sipho Mchunu. Because it was illegal for inter-racial bands to perform in South Africa during apartheid, their first album Universal received no airplay but became popular through word of mouth.
Johnny Clegg and Juluka released several albums together with their last album "Heat Dust and Dream" being nominated for a Grammy Award for best album in the category of World Music.

Lucky Dube
Lucky Philip Dube, born on August 3, 1964 is a South African reggae musician from Johannesburg. His parents named him Lucky because he was born in poor health, and the doctors thought he would die but he survived. Lucky's parents separated before he was born, so his mother had to bring him up. Due to apartheid and the overall racism in South Africa his mother was barely able to take care of the children and they grew up in poverty. He was able to attend school and it was there, Lucky began to find his musical interests. Soon he discovered the instruments the school had and he taught himself. Lucky paired up with a few of his friends in the choir and together they founded the band Skyway.When Lucky was 18 he joined his cousin's band The Love Brothers. They later changed their name to "Lucky Dube and the Supersoul" and produced their first record. Supersoul was later dropped from the name and Lucky Dube went on to produce several hit albums. He is still producing albums and touring around the world. Lucky does not smoke, he doesn't drink and he doesn't consume Marijuana, which is very unusual for a Rastafarian.
He has won over 20 awards for his musical contribution - both in South Africa and internationally.
He was the first South African to have an enhanced CD released.

His songs include...
Rasta Never Die
Think About The Children
Slave (1990)
Prisoner (1991)
Captured Live (1991)
House of Exile (1992)
Victims (1993)
Together as One (1994)
Trinity (1995)
Serious Reggae (1996)
Taxman (1997)
The Way It Is (1999)
The Rough Guide To Lucky Dube (compilation) (2001)
Soul Taker (2001)
The Other Side (2004)
Respect (2006)

Majek Fashek

Majekodumni Fasheke, better known as Majek Fashek, is probably Nigeria's greatest reggae musician of all time,
Majek Fashek first gained national fame on a television show in the early 1980s, then toured for many years with The Mandators. In 1987, he began a solo career and quickly became the biggest reggae singer in the country. His song 'Send Down The Rain' was especially popular. Majek Fashek still performs till date.

Youssou N'dour

Senegalese singer and percussionist, Youssou N'Dour was born October 1, 1959 in Dakar). He helped develop popular music in Senegal, known in the Wolof language as mbalax. Youssou N'Dour is one of the most celebrated African musicians in history. A renowned singer, songwriter, and composer, Youssou's mix of traditional Senegalese mbalax with eclectic influences ranging from Cuban samba to hip hop, jazz, and soul has won him an international fan base of millions. He is endowed with remarkable range and poise, a composer, bandleader, and producer with a prodigious musical intelligence. In July 1993, an African opera composed by N'Dour premiered at the Opéra Bastille. He wrote and performed the official anthem of the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Axelle Red "La Cour des Grands".He won his first American Grammy Award (best contemporary world music album) for his CD Egypt in 2005.

His songs include
Bitim Rew (1984)
Nelson Mandela (1986)
Immigrés (1988)
The Lion (1989) - considered his breakthrough album
Set (1990)
Eyes Open (1992)
Guide (Wommat) (1994)
Djamil (1996)
Inedits 84-85 (1997)
Special Fin D'annee Plus (1999)
Lii (2000)
Joko: The Link (2000)
Rewmi (2000)
Le Grand Bal (2000)
St. Louis (2000)
Le Grand Bal a Bercy (2001)
Ba Tay (2002)
Nothing's In Vain (2002)
Youssou N'Dour and His Friends (2002)
Kirikou (2004)
Egypt (2004)

Brenda Fassie

Brenda Fassie born November 3, 1964, was a legendary South African pop singer. She was known as the Queen of African Pop. Brenda was born in Langa, Cape Town. She was named after Brenda Lee, an American country singer. Her father died when she was 2, and with the help of her mother, a pianist, she started earning money by singing for tourists.
In 1981, at the age of 16, she left Cape Town for Soweto, Johannesburg to seek her fortune as a singer. Brenda first joined the group Joy and later became the lead singer for the township pop group Brenda And The Big Dudes. Since 1996 she released several solo albums like "Now Is The Time", "Memeza" (1997, the best selling album in South Africa). Most of her albums became multi-platinum sellers in South Africa.
She was voted 17th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Brenda died at age 39 on 9 May 2004.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Beautiful South African singer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka was born in 1965, in Dobsonville, Soweto.
Dubbed the "Princess of Africa", Chaka Chaka has been at the forefront of South African popular music for 20 years. Songs like "I'm Burning Up", "I'm in Love With a DJ", "I Cry for Freedom", "Makoti", "Motherland" and the ever-popular "Umqombothi" ("Traditional Beer") ensured Yvonne's stardom.
One of her songs also features in the opening scene of the 2005 movie Hotel Rwanda. She became the first Black child to appear on South African television. In 1981 "Sugar Shack", a talent show, introduced her to the South African public.
Chaka Chaka started singing at 19 in 1985 when Phil Hollis of Dephon Records discovered her in Johannesburg.
Releasing hit after hit, Chaka Chaka's subsequent award winning albums include Thank you Mr Dj, I'm burning up, Yvonne and friends.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Zenzi Makeba (The mother of African music) was born in Johannesburg in 1932. Her professional career began in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.
In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US. Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959. When the Italian government invited her to the premier of the film at the Venice Film Festival, she decided not to return home. Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States. She released many of her most famous hits there including Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa), and Malaika. In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.
In 1963, after an impassioned testimony before the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid, Makeba's records were banned in South Africa and her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked.
In 1990, Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa. In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Makeba started a 14 month worldwide farewell tour in 2005, holding concerts in all of those countries that she had visited during her working life.

Her albums include...
Miriam Makeba: 1960
The World Of Miriam Makeba: 1962
Makeba: 1963
Makeba Sings: 1965
An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba (with Harry Belafonte): 1965
The Click Song: 1965
All About Makeba: 1966
Malaisha: 1966
The Promise: 1974
Country Girl: 1975
Pata Pata: 1977
Sangoma: 1988
Welela: 1989
Eyes On Tomorrow: 1991
Sing Me A Song: 1993
A Promise: 1994
Live From Paris & Conakry: 1998
Homeland, 2000
Keep Me In Mind, 2002
Reflections, 2004

Koo Nimo

Daniel Amponsah, known as Koo Nimo, is a leading folk musician of Highlife music from Ghana. He was born on October 3rd, 1934, in the village of Foase, in the Atwima District of Ashanti in West Africa. In 1957, Koo Nimo first received national acclaim through the formation of the Addadam Agofomma ensemble. Many of his songs tell traditional stories and are sung in the language Twi. Traditional instruments of West Africa, such as Djembe and the Talking drum, rhumba box, Axatse (hollow gourd rattle with beads or seeds woven around it on a net), and Gankogui (consists of two iron bells providing the key, rhythmic pattern).
In 1990, eight of Koo's songs were released as a compact disk entitled Osabarima. This was the first work by a Ghanaian artist to be put on CD.

IK Dairo

I.K. Dairo is often called The Father of Juju Music. In the 1950s and 1960's Juju was considered music of the 'poorer' people because it wasn't modern enough for the elite of the class-conscious Nigeria. After independence, I.K. Dairo was the chief reason Juju took off.
In 1957 I.K. Dairo founded his band, the Morning Star Orchestra, later to become the Blue Spots. He incorporated rhythms from all over the country, and even introduced the accordian and slide guitar. Dairo's lyrical skills gave him a string of hit records. In 1963 Dairo received an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his achievements, the only African musician to ever hold such a title.

His hit songs include...
Ise Ori Ranmi Ni Mo Nse
I Remember My Darling,
Erora Feso Jaiye
Se B'Oluwa Lo Npese

He's the father of popular singer, Paulplay Dairo.

Haruna IsholaNigerian musician, Haruna Ishola was one of the most popular artist in the apala genre.
Born in the town of Ijebu-igbo, He began recording apala numbers in about 1955, and soon became one of the most respected praise singers in Nigeria. Ishola adapted and stuck to a strong traditionalist approach, citing both Yoruba proverbs and Koranic scripture in his songs, and introducing no Western instruments into his musical lineup.
Ishola would sit when performing, surrounded by two talking drummers, shaker and bell, and a chorus of singers. Also central to his sound was the agidigbo, a hollow lamellophone (thumb piano), both plucked and struck to create a hypnotic ostinato at the center of the apala sound.
In 1969, Ishola started STAR Records Ltd., in partnership with juju music legend I.K. Dairo. This was the first African record label owned by its artists. Ishola died in 1983, but his large catalog of recordings both on Decca and STAR ensure that he will not soon be forgotten.

Hugh Masekela

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela, born April 4, 1939 is a South African trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet player.
He began singing and playing piano as a child.
By 1956, Hugh joined Alfred Herbert's African Jazz Revue.
Following a Manhattan Brothers tour of South Africa in 1958, Hugh wound up in the orchestra for the musical King Kong. He's been in music since then.
Hugh is the father of E presenter, Sal Masekela.

King Sunny Ade
Nigerian Juju Icon, King Sunny Adé (Sunday Adeniyi) was born September 22, 1946.His Band King Sunny Ade and His African Beats became an international band across Africa during the mid-1980s, touring and gaining a significant audience in the United States and Europe as well. Born to a Nigerian royal family in Ondo, he was soon billed as the African Bob Marley, and headlined concerts in the US..
Adé was the first to introduce the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music after becoming a fan of American country/western tunes. He is also well-known for his dexterous stage art, dance steps and mastery of the strings.

These are not all the African music legends we have, I'll do a part 2 in subsequent weeks. Help celebrate great African music legends by giving me some more names...I don't know them all.

Question; Who is your all time greatest African artist?


Comb & Razor said...

some more names? hmmm...

ET Mensah
Tabu Ley Rochereau
M'Pongo Love
Guy Warren (Kofi Ghanaba)
Thomas Mapfumo
Gnonnas Pedro
Christiana Essien-Igbokwe
Ernesto Djedje
Ambrose Adekoya Campbell
Baaba Maal
Salif Keita
Angelique Kidjo

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I had completely forgotten about Yvonne Chaka Chaka until I watched a rerun of Face of Africa where she performed. I love her! In respect to the older icons, I won't say she's my favorite. I can't pin-point at anyone really but I really enjoyed reading the post and I'm gonna re-read it later today.

Later then. (...truth sings 'Traditional Beer' till fades...)lol

Anonymous said...

Fa fa faaaa....FOUL!

Osadebe needs to be on that list!


Unknown said...

Baba 70 is my numero uno!KSA is my man of all times. Brenda will always be my fav Queen..:)))) Nice job Linda..

Anonymous said...

Thank you for remebering these greats!thias was beautiful writeup

Aijay said...

Nice blog Linda. I love Johnny. He's amazing. fab performer too.

Idemili said...

Where is Celestine Ukwu now?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

fela quickly followed by oliver d coque and awilo longomba... lol.. i love this post....

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