8 Sites to Discover African Music
Sometimes it seems like late nights and early mornings just can’t be avoided. Whether you’re putting in a few extra hours of work, getting ready for a night on the town, or up and at ‘em for your morning jog — you name it, there’s nothing like the sweet sweet sound of music to keep you pushing through.
Today, we’re sharing our arsenal of music sites for you to discover African musicians — both new and old. So go ahead and take a break…slip your dancing shoes on (converse sneakers work)…and jam on!
Okay Africa describes themself as a “cultural guide to all that’s hot and jumping in the new African renaissance”. This sister site to Okay Player, founded by ‘The Roots’, was launched during the world cup last year with a huge concert in Prospect Park featuring the cast of FELA, Talib Kweli, Blitz the Ambassador and more. We love discovering new music through their “Tracka De Day“ feature and their easily searchable country and artist categories.
Okay Africa also shares and organizes the hottest events in town, like their recent Okay Summer! Pop-Up Party at the Palms where Kenya’s Just A Band (don’t miss them in concert at DROM today in NYC), Bajah and the Dry Eye crew (Sierra-Leone), and more performed. You know how much we love playlists, so we instantly fell in love with Okay Africa’s Mixtape Series entitled “Africa in Your Earbuds I” by Chief Boima and “Africa in Your Earbuds II“ by Sinkane. Oh…and their slogan couldn’t be more true — “Giving you true notes since 247,000 BC”.
In 2006, Brooklyn-based DJ/Blogger/Music Publicist, Brian Shimkovitz, launched a blog to release his collection of African music cassettes in the form of downloadable MP3′s. His impressive collection represents a treasure trove of African genres outside of the regular Naija Beats, Kwaito, House and more that we are typically exposed to. We are particularly fond of this video from 1980′s Ghanian hiplife artist Ata Kak spotlighted by Arise magazine and this mixtape. Did we mention our love affair with some of the cassette artwork featured on the site?
We are glad to hear that ATFA has an online store set to launch in October where music can be purchased, with 50% of proceeds going towards the artists. First to be released is a 1982 recording by Mali’s Nâ Hawa Doumbia. It’s interesting to note that while ATFA has become popular by converting casette tapes to Mp3s, there is a new audio cassette boom in Zimbabwe as captured by CNN! Different folks, different strokes.
This is Africa
Even though This is Africa is a media organization that spotlights African fashion, art and lifestyle, a major aspect of the site is its music tab. Its mission is “to bind a new generation of global music and culture fans to Africa and Africans”. Vistors to the site can score free tickets to music events, listen to three live radio stations and educate themselves on African music and culture through various articles like the one on Modernizers of Coupe De Caler, Breakdancers in Rwanda and Burundi and a spotlight on Kwaito music and its influence. Our favorite feature on the site is The White Room, where upcoming African artists cover popular songs of their choice. UK-based Zimbabwean singer, Cynthia Mare, nailed “Neria” (originally by Oliver Mutkudzi) and we love Nigerian Sound Sultan’s version of Owl City’s fireflies.
Founded by Ethiopians Sirak Getachew and Kaleb Berhane, Africology ”focuses on educating the world on music of African descent”. The etymology of the word Africology, Afric- implying African and -logy implying a branch of learning, captures the intent of the founders’ concept perfectly. Artists, DJ’s, and Producers are profiled on the site (including one of our fave Guest Curators, DJ Moma), while Africology also has a radio station with mixes created by guest djs. Africology regularly hosts events in partnership with other media outlets such as BHF and New Africa Live. To top it off, Africology is committed to social responsibility and regularly donates to charitable causes.
Museke features playlists, lyrics to popular songs, videos from emerging African artists and also has a radio segment (Museke Minute) where correspondents share new information on African music happenings (for instance, did you know Fally Ipupa has a double album coming out at the end of this year? Now you know!)
Museke also held the first ever Museke Online African Music Awards which brought together Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora, as well as African music lovers, to vote online for their favorite African artists throughout various categories. This year, Museke is partnering with Afrotainment TV to host the awards. Online voting has already begun, so be sure to vote in the 30 plus categories for best regional videos, Diasporan song, artist of the year and more! We are particularly excited about their September 24th event in New York City, where winners will be revealed and guests will be treated to performances from Iyadede, Bliz the Ambassador, Les Nubians and more. We’ll be sure to report back for you!
Africa Unsigned believes there is a new African sound and that it can be exposed through funding from African music lovers! Visitors can browse through the site to find artists they like and support them financially with donations starting at $1. Once the $10,000 mark is reached, artists produce 3 songs which are released on major music platforms like Itunes, Amazon and more. Success stories include ‘Muthoni the Drummer Queen‘ from Kenya who just released her music video early this month.
The creator of Akwaaba Music (Benjamin Lebrave) was frustrated by the difficulty of accessing African music in the diaspora, so he reached out to emerging talent in Africa and the rest is music history. According to their facebook fan page, they “go to Africa to meet artists with existing releases. We tell them what we do, explain that it may take a while for them to become the next 50 Cent, and we convince some to work with us. Then we release their music, promote it, submit it for film and TV licensing, send it out to DJs, radios, blogs and other musically inclined ‘important’ people. If you are on the hunt for some hiplife, merengue, semba, coupe de caler and more, be sure to check out their site. Unsurprisingly, they feature a lot of emerging Ghanian artists (as Akwaaba means Welcome in twi ). New releases include the much discussed “Thank God We are not a Nigerians” track by F.O.K.N boys, who created the not-so-subtle jab in anticipation of the friendly soccer game Ghana was set to play against Nigeria a few weeks ago (which was cancelled due to the London riots).
Shakara is a music site created to promote African music through services like retail, marketing and digital promotion. A digital store is set to launch later this year featuring digital music, merchandise and ticketing. Mixtapes are regularly promoted on the site, with a recent one being ‘Africa Te Quero‘ featuring some oldies but goodies like zouk and afro-beat from the legendary Zaiko Langa and Fela Kuti. We also love their ‘South African Bangers‘ mixtape which has us ready to hit the dance floor!
The impact of the music captured on these 8 sites can best be summarized by Taiye Selaisse’s opening paragraph in “What is Exactly Is An Afropolitan?”, which states:
“It’s moments to midnight on Thursday night at Medicine Bar in London (or insert other capital). Zak, boy-genius DJ, is spinning a Fela Kuti remix. The little downstairs dancefloor swells with smiling, sweating men and women fusing hip-hop dance moves with a funky sort of djembe.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SITES FOR DISCOVERING AFRICAN MUSIC?