A new category on this here blog: go global. I would be skeptical if I were you, dear reader, but the goal is to inspire more global curiosity with a new theme each week and two or three links to explore the theme. This week: African music.
[Tangent: for all of you screaming that Africa is not a country, yes, understood, it’s a continent. And, yes, I do speak about music as “Latin American”, “European”, “East Asian”, etc, etc.]
The recent resurgence of interest in African music arguably breaks with existing stereotypes only to replace them with new ones. But who is benefiting from African music’s soaring popularity? How are the existing scenes of living musicians in African countries responding to this interest? Are the popularising efforts of Giles Peterson and Damon Albarn a new scramble for Africa or a case of world music 2.0?
Awesome Tapes from Africa is a MP3 blog curated and maintained by Brooklyn-based Brian Shimkovitz of Sacks and Co. Every two weeks or so Shimkovitz puts up mp3 versions of digitized tapes he has picked up in Africa.
If Brian (Awesome Tapes) attempted to start searching out these musicians and offering them micro payments for a few cassettes he offered for free online, he would end up spending five times as much money in the search and distribution as on the payment. Does that mean he should stop putting them up for free? Not everything has to have a ‘price on it’.
Another great Brooklyn-based African music mp3 blog is Vodoo Funk:
This is my account of a three year long stay in West Africa. I lived in Conakry, the capital of Guinea and from there traveled various other countries in the region, namely Sierra Leone, Ghana and Benin. My goal was, to find as many vintage African records as possible. July of 2008, I relocated to NYC and I will post updates on my activities here on the front page of this blog while the archive below shows you a total of 60 reports that I wrote while in Africa. The links ending with “-MP3-” will lead you to posts that include mixes of African Pop Music from the 1970s.
If you’re looking for ways to cut down on the budget this year, stop downloading from iTunes and start exploring the world of African music. But be ethical. You should use at least half the money you save to support African music, arts, and culture. Calabash Music is an excellent resource for fair-trade music.
This has been a strong year for African music, with two big trends emerging. The first is the continuing integration of African music into the U.S. and European mainstream. Nigerian Afrobeat is played in virtually every major Western city these days. Africanized blues and rock acts continue to emerge in the U.S. and the U.K., while African-inspired riffs have turned up in the hands of indie-rock outfits like Vampire Weekend and jam bands like Toubab Krewe. Hip-hop is surging in Africa, but now African rappers in London (Emmanuel Jal) and Toronto (K’Naan) seem to be figuring out how to translate it successfully to the international stage. The other trend is the ongoing unearthing of treasures from Afropop’s “golden era,” particularly the ’70s.
Kenyan blogger Steve Ntwiga is a can’t-miss resource on the web for African music. He hasn’t written for GV for sometime now, but his post from March ’07 is another example of what a valuable archive of recent humanity we’ve built up on Global Voices. Speaking of archives, for those of you interested in South African indie music, Ntwiga points us to The Muso, which sadly hasn’t been updated for some time, but still contains some great links.
For the 52nd issue of The FADER we flexed our journalistic muscles to find out what was happening with music in Africa right now—from Ghanaian hiplife to the South African Kwaito scene, to our cover features on Malawian singer/Radioclit protégé/current East London resident Esau Mwamwaya, and BLK JKS, a South African dub-metal-ska-everything quartet that we should all probably keep our eyes on in 2008.
The FADER epitomizes late-20-something hipster materialism, but they also put out one very polished magazine plus podcast duo each week, and all for free. If you don’t have the bandwidth for the heavy PDF and MP3 files, at least check out their feature piece on the BLK JKS (hat tip to Rebecca for turning me on to them back in ZA).
From HearYa, here is BLK JKS’ Lakeside: