Every country has its own language(s) but there is one language we can effortlessly understand: The language of Music.
Music is a universal language and it’s been around since time immemorial. We don’t know how or when music started but one thing we know for sure is there will never be an end to music or singing.
Music is sometimes seen as a way of communicating thoughts or emotions through melodious sounds or vocals. It is without argument that music is so powerful to the extent of being able to bring people together, create social cohesion and be the strength of all art forms like dancing, painting, writing etc.
Music in Africa is deep; it carries in it African values, traditions and history.
You may be surprised that Africa has had some of the biggest musicians in the world. Many of these musicians were pioneers of their own sounds and music genres which is now categorized by a lot of people as Afrobeats. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best African music legends in no significant order
Nigerian singer and multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti is acclaimed as one of the greatest African artist who ever lived. He was famous for his unique style and political activism. Fela who is referred to as the Father of the music genre Afrobeats rose to fame in the 70s alongside his band ‘The Afrikan 70’. His music was usually delivered in Yoruba which was his native language and pidgin English. His sound and music was enjoyed all over Africa.
King Sunny Ade (1946-Present)
King Sunny Ade was born to a royal family in Ondo state Nigeria and this royalty rubbed off on his style of music. Popularly known for playing juju music which was a very popular form of Nigerian music during the 80s. His band King Sunny Ade and his African beats, toured across Africa and started gaining popularity in the United States and Europe. King Sunny Ade was the first person to introduce the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian music scene.
Brenda Fassie (1964-2004)
The list will be incomplete without popular South African pop singer Brenda Fassie. Fondly referred to as the Queen of African Pop. After singing background vocals for other artists, Brenda broke out with the group Brenda & the Big Dudes. She later went on to a solo career and used her music to express her anti-apartheid political activism, this made her internationally recognized as a political voice for black South Africans.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka (1965-Present)
South African singer and songwriter Yvonne Chaka Chaka started her music career early and as a young performer she was the first Black child to appear on South African television in 1981. Fondly referred to as “the princess of Africa” Chaka Chaka experienced a rise in the music scene even during the time of apartheid in South Africa. Chaka Chaka released hit after hit, ‘Thank you Mr. Dj’ was one of her songs that was really big all over Africa and was really popular in Nigeria.
Lucky Dube (1964-2007)
Lucky Dube was a South African reggae legend popular for his army camouflage attire and his anti-apartheid songs. Dube expressed his political activism through his music. He was very outspoken and seen as the father of African reggae music. Discovering his musical talents at a young age he joined his cousin’s band at the age of 18. They later renamed the band ‘Lucky Dube & The Supersoul’ and produced their first album. Supersoul was later dropped from the name and Lucky Dube went on to produce several hit albums and toured the world. He was murdered by armed robbers on the evening of 18 October 2007
Majek Fashek (1963-2020)
The Nigerian singer, songwriter and Raggae legend Mejekodunmi Fasheke was formerly known by the stage name Rajesh Kanal. Shortly after joining Tabansi Records, he changed his stage name from Rajesh Kanal to Majek Fashek, this was about the same time when he released ‘Prisoner of conscience’ which was his hit album that announced him to the world. This album had his hit single ‘Send down the rain’ which earned him the name ‘The Rainmaker’.
Majek became the first African artiste to be signed to Interscope records- an American record label where he released the hit project ‘Spirit of Love’ in 1990 for an estimated $20million. Majek’s sound was influenced largely by late music legends such as Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and Jimi Hendrix. The singer later pioneered his own genre of music ‘Kpangolo’
The singer also worked with several international music icons like Micheal Jackson, Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, and Beyoncé.
Angélique Kidjo (1960-present)
A four time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter & activist from Benin Republic. Kidjo is noted for her diverse musical influences & creative music videos which earned her the title of The greatest African Diva.
Youssou N’dour (1959-Present)
Youssou N dour was born in the busy city of Dakar, Senegal. He is one of the pioneers of the popular music style known in Wolof as Mbalax. As a celebrated singer, songwriter, and composer, he is regarded very highly internationally. His fusion of Mbalex with Cuban, Latin, Hip-hop and elements of pop has earned him an international recognition.
E.T Mensah (1919-1996)
Emmanuel Tettey Mensah, best known as E.T Mensah was a multi-instrumental Ghanaian musician who is revered as the “King of Highlife” music. His band ‘The Tempos’ toured widely across West Africa. They also had the honour of playing for the president Kwame Nkrumah.
Awilo Logomba ( 1962-Present)
Awilo is a Congolese Soukous musician who started out first as a drummer for bands. Awilo later left drumming for singing and became popular in the African music scene. Awilo has performed live concerts in several African countries, Europe and North America.Click here to give us five stars rating!