The music scene on the African continent has always been a hive of activity, starting from the early sixties when the likes of Franco reigned supreme. But this activity was always shrouded in terms such as “world music” which tended to lump wide-ranging musical styles into a flat, gray mass of indistinguishable sounds.
Over the past decade, this trend has changed. More cross-continental collaborations are taking place and, thanks in part to continent-wide television networks like MTV Base and Channel O, more people are being exposed to the wide array of artists coming out of the continent.
I’ll be bringing you a monthly recap of some of the amazing music being released, from Ghanaian hip-hop artist Sarkodie and Nigerian artist 2Face Idibia, to the emerging Namibian hip-hop trio Black Vulcanite and South African pair Dirty Paraffin. For this inaugural music review, I trekked east and found Kenya’s Camp Mulla collaborating with recently-relocated Ghanaian rapper M.anifest on a made-for-the-club-dance-floor track; crossed the border over to the DRC to find Alec Lomani’s mind-altering beats, then headed to the continent’s southern tip where current hip-hop darling Khuli Chana was waiting with his poignant blend of retrospective rap awesomeness.
All In – Camp Mulla ft. M.anifest
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/89452904″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Kenya’s Camp Mulla collaborate with Ghana’s M.anifest on a song so watertight it wouldn’t need to jostle its way onto a commercial radio playlist to be noticed. When I first heard All In‘s opening chords, it sounded very urban. Bar my reservations about the appropriation of fringe cultures by the mass market, All In is a decent song. M.anifest’s ascent has been nothing short of inspiring – barely a year has passed since he moved back to Ghana from America, but his list of achievements and award nominations are testament to his focus and relentless work ethic.
Pardon My French – Alec Lomami
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/89696871″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Imagine Miriam Makeba on tour in the summer of ’72 in New York City. Pata Pata had just been released, and as the world prepared to usher in a new superstar, time leaps forward to 2013 in Kinshasa. Her historic tune has been usurped, turned on its head and re-interpreted into an unintended – yet exceptional – groove by Alec Lomami. The Kinshasa-born rapper currently living in South Africa is responsible for lifting the iconic song’s lilting melodies and ejecting electronic sounds which underpin the original’s funky strut. This accentuates rather than obscures Pata Pata‘s ubiquity on the musical landscape. Lomami expertly maintains the original song’s charm, yet drives it forward with his imaginative, forward-thinking approach to composition and song structure. “The song is an almost four-minute complaint,” he explained in an interview recently. “It is me being cynical … I tell myself ‘no one really cares, bruh, you’re just wasting my time.'” Pardon My French must be played at a really high volume while doing Saturday morning chores like laundry. Ridiculous dance moves are compulsory.
HazzadazMove – Khuli Chana ft KayGizm
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/57715272″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Khuli Chana’s story is not just the usual narrative of obscure-turned-famous artist. It is, rather, a nuanced tale of a childhood spent in the former homeland of Bophuthatswana under Lucas Mangope, absorbing mid-nineties rap music and dabbling in high school rap groups which laid a solid foundation for his music career. He was recently honoured with three Sama awards including Album of the Year. Khuli is no stranger to mainstream success; as part of Morafe, the group, along with Hip Hop Pantsula (HHP), brought the Motswako sound to a greater audience in the mid-2000s. Arguably, Motswako – a “melting pot of creativity, style, music and art” according to HHP – has now become synonymous with good times and party vibes, and Khuli Chana is its president. Firmly rooted in the basics of rap music, his impeccable flow and delivery set him apart from his peers. Coupled with his relentless work ethic,it will ensure his music endures time and its elements.
Hip-hop is taking on an increasingly localised flavour, but it’s not all Africa has to offer. In my next review I’ll take a look at Ghana’s Azonto dance craze and South Africa’s emerging electronic music acts.