socioeconomic class, generation, and so on. For the purposes of this article, I shall not dwell on who likes what, where and why. Instead, we shall look at music in its universal form and explore how it evolved on the continent, and what genres can be considered to be the most popular of all time in Africa
During the 1980s, the West rediscovered the folk music of Africa. Afro-rock started with commercial groups based in the West, such as Osibisa. The cross-pollination took place in both directions: Western popular music adopted elements of African music, while African music adopted elements of Western music, particularly the studio techniques. Still in the 1980s, the styles and genres of various African countries, such as South Africa’s ‘mbaqanga’, Zimbabwe’s ‘jit’, Zaire’s (Democratic Republic of Congo) ‘soukous’, Nigeria’s ‘juju’ and Ghana’s ‘highlife’, had a chance to develop and proliferate around the world. I should digress at this point and state that all those familiar with African music will agree that there is one common theme: a piece of music always has to resonate with the people through the message it conveys. It is little wonder, therefore, that one finds songs about war, hunger and famine, love and heartbreak, and, more recently, party songs which, more than being just happy songs, also convey a message.
Let’s get into more detail regarding some of the most popular genres that Africa has been well known for.
Fela Kuti created Afrobeat by fusing traditional Nigerian music, jazz and highlife. Today, it is often mixed with hip hop or makossa and is well known even outside Africa.
Apala is a percussion-based style of the Muslim Yoruba people in Nigeria, West Africa.
Assiko is a rhythmic dance from Cameroon.
This dance music developed from the traditional music of the Beti in Cameroon. The sexy dance moves remind one of the popular mapouka from the Ivory Coast.
Popular music in Kenya. The electric bass guitar imitates the melodies of the traditional Kenyan eight-string lyre called nyatiti.
Popular style from Zimbabwe. The melodies played by modern instruments are based on the traditional mbira music of the Shona people.
Pop music from the Ivory Coast/France with danceable percussion and deep bass. This style is said to help Ivorians through tough times and difficult political situations.
The people living in the Sahara Desert were making blues music long before it became famous in the West. This music sounds absolutely brilliant!
Popular style from Nigeria based on traditional Muslim yoruba music.
Music style and dance from Cape Verde based on the accordion.
Highlife is a genre from Ghana and is popular in all of English-speaking West Africa.
Extremely popular among Ghana’s youth is the fusion of highlife and hip hop.
Harmonious and gentle, this is a cappella originating among the South African Zulu that is sung by all male choirs.
South Africa’s black youth love this new mix of house music and African sounds.
This urban dance music from the capital city of Cameroon reminds one of soukous.
Senegal’s most popular music style, mbalax is a brilliant fusion of traditional griot praise songs and sabar rhythms with modern Western elements.
This Congolese dance music was created by Koffi Olomide. It’s a more sensual and melancholic subform of soukous.
Recent Global Music Trends
Moving onto the world stage, music has brought unity among the people of the world. Virtually every country has a national anthem, which is music that shows the character of a nation and symbolises unity as well. Music will say what you feel, and will say what you want to say – it can become the ‘thing’. A people will love a genre or more. I shall provide information about some of the most popular genres in the world. Take note of the stark differences in these genres in comparison with those African ones discussed earlier. It should also be noted that the following list is by no means exhaustive.
Pop is one of the most popular music genres in the world, with many fans and listeners. Nowadays, alternative pop artists such as J-Pop and K-Pop are closely competing for the top spot alongside Western pop. Pop can be found in electro pop, dance pop and synth-pop, among others.
Across the globe, the population of rock fans has become larger and larger over the years. Some contend that rock is second-most popular to pop. Rock fans are spread across every continent. Guns N’ Roses is a typical rock band. Various forms of the genre include hard rock, punk rock, and alternative rock.
From the late 1980s until now, contemporary R&B was the popular music. Today, however, R&B is not as prevalent. It has its place in its fans’ hearts and slow jams have been performed by the popular singers Bruno Mars and Rihanna, as well as by the 1990s sensation Mariah Carey.
Hip hop is commonly combined with electro pop. Eminem is one of the most popular artists in this sphere. Lately, there have been signs of alternative hip hop, which is also becoming a phenomenon.
There are large numbers of country music fans in the world. Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Don Williams, Dolly Parton and Billy Currington are just some of the country artists.
Africa's Music Journey
Africa has long been recognised for a number of reasons. Many of those may not necessarily be the best reasons, but one that can certainly not be taken away from the continent is its decades-old culture. Further broken down, ‘culture’ means different things to different people in different regions. However, what has become synonymous with all cultures is music. Among other things, music played a pivotal role in the liberation of various African countries. In South Africa, for instance, Umzabalazo (freedom) songs were all it took to fire the engine that was fighting against apartheid.
Over the years, music has evolved, and even more so with the advent of technology. Good music is defined differently by different people, depending on their geographical location, race, gender, age, .
SUSTAINABILITY | Africa's Music Journey
By Andrew Ngozo