Yes, it is that time of the year when everyone makes their own list of everything; what they liked, what they didn’t, and certainly what they did not achieve. For me, I like to look back and reflect what I’ve discovered in the year, rather than think about what I did not accomplish. Anyway, discovering new things was a big thing for me in 2007.
Actually, I started discovering new kind of music in 2006 – sort of going back to the music of the mother-continent. My dislike and contempt for contemporary American music started in 2004 because I felt the “popular” music was just getting worst and worst in terms of quality and representativeness. I remember feeling the music was just all similar – no distinct quality at all. Worst of all, most people in my age group were just listening to music that glorified denigration of women and money/bling-blings. I’m obviously referring to hip/hop and rap music. Even Reggae was bad. So I started searching for new music, something different, something that had meaning and soul. I don’t know how I came to go back to the music of Africa but I did…..and how magnificent and rich the music of Africa I realized!
West Africa is the best place in the world for music if you ask me, especially Mali. I have three albums I discovered in 2007 that I really want to recommend to everyone because they are sooo good. First one is an album by Askia Modibo, a Malian reggae/afropop artist called Wass Reggae. I only discovered this album in 2007, but the album was released in 1996. Nonetheless, it’s still fresh and beautiful.
Think of this album as the equavalent of Bob Marley’s Exodus or Legend but it’s distinctly African at the same time. Every track is a treasure, whether it’s “Ou Va L’Afrique” or “Wadjou,” Modibo’s voice and his band’s beautiful instruments are just a pleasure to listen to. The message of the album ranges from peace in Africa, immigration, spirituality to mundane things like traffic. I don’t know who to compare Modibo’s voice to but it’s something distinct and wholly pleasant. If you ever liked reggae and afropop even a little bit, you have got to get this album – I promise you will never regret it! Download the whole mp3 album at emusic.com so you can make a copy for yourself to listen to in the car or even a friend
The second album I want to recommend is Joyful by Ayo, a Nigerian-German artist that has been described as afropopreggaeneosoul because it is all over the place, which in this case is a good thing. With a Romanian Gypsy mother and Nigerian father, Joyful is not only her debut album but also her identity as a musician. Ayo with an under-accent of the “o” means “joy” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria so listening to her melodious voice and soulful instruments are truly a joy.
My third recommendation goes to the Lion of Zimbabwe Thomas Mapfumo’s 2006 release Rise Up.
An album that is packed with everything – socio-political message, melodious voice and chorus, and nearly every instrument you can think of. But for me, it’s Mapfumo’s message and poetic delivery of his music that I enjoy. The chorus reminds you of Bob Marley and the Wheeler’s heyday. With tracks like Kuvarira Mukati (Suffer In Silence) to the haunting tracks of Ndodya Marasha (I’m Mad as Hell) and Vanofira Chiiko (What Are They Dying For?), all directed at Robert Mugabe and his regime. It is funny, in the 1970s when Robert Mugabe was fighting against the racist white government of “Rhodesia” as they were known, Mugabe was being inspired by Mapfumo’s anti-white rule lyrics – in fact, Mr. Mugabe was using Thomas Mapfumo’s music to rally his guerrilla fighters. But when Mugabe’s rule became dictatorship itself, Mapfumo started making music against Mugabe rule. Like the racist white government, Mugabe banned Thomas Mapfumo’s music and has since been in exile in the USA. But to appreciate The Lion of Zimbabwe’s music, I highly recommend Spirits to Bite Our Ears: The Singles Collection 1977-1986 because this album gives you a complete picture of who Thomas Mapfumo really is. Enjoy it like I did.
Other Recommended Music: In no particular order
- Lura’s M’Bem di Fora
- Salif Kaita’s Moffou
- Habib Koite & Bamada’s Ma Ya
- Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective’s Watina