The music of Africa is an overwhelming and beautiful thing. The sheer variety of styles, genres and instruments is enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned traveler. But there are some artists who stand out as truly legendary, such
as Baaba Maal from Senegal or Youssou Ndour from Gambia. So before you go on your next African adventure make sure you check out these top 10 African artists!
Youssou Ndour is a Senegalese musician and politician. He was born in Dakar in 1959.
He has been called the ‘African Elvis’, due to his popularity across Africa during the 1980s and 1990s.
Angelique Kidjo is a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from Benin. She is known for her political activism, as well as her work with the organization Women in Harmony.
Kidjo was born in 1960 to parents who were musicians in their own right. As a child, she learned how to play drums and guitar from her father and began performing at age 11 when she joined an all-female music group called Les Amazones de la Republique du Benin (ARBs). In 1976, ARBs released their first album titled “Les Amazones.” In 1987 Angelique left Benin for Paris where she studied musicology at Sorbonne University before moving to New York City where she continued her studies at Columbia University while performing regularly at clubs such as The Bottom Line and CBGB’s alongside acts like Elvis Costello & Paul Simon during this time period
Baaba Maal is a Senegalese singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is known for his work in Mbalax (a style of West African popular music).
Maal was born in Bakel, Senegal on January 1st 1949 to Mamadou Maal and Marie Thiam. His name means “father’s wealth” in Wolof language. As a child he learned how to play guitar from his uncles who were professional musicians. When he was 15 years old he began performing regularly at weddings and parties throughout Western Africa. In 1965 he formed his first band called Les Ambassadeurs Extraordinaires du Rhythm’.
Later he moved to France where he studied banking at university before returning home again with his wife Fatou Diome whom they met while studying together in Paris when she was just 14 years old!
Femi Kuti is a Nigerian Afrobeat musician. He is the son of afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and the founder of Egypt 80.
The name “Femi” means “faith” in Yoruba, while his middle name Oluwafemi translates to “God’s gift”. Femi’s mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was an activist and feminist who founded Nigeria’s first women’s rights organization – which she named after herself: The Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti Foundation.
Hugh Masekela is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer. He is known as “the father of South African jazz” and was born in KwaZulu-Natal.
Masekela began learning piano at age six and trombone at twelve years old. He attended the University of Witwatersrand where he studied medicine but left after his first year because he wanted to pursue music instead. In 1959 Hugh went on tour with Dolly Rathebe’s dance troupe before moving to Johannesburg where he worked as a session musician for numerous artists including Miriam Makeba (who later became his wife).
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African vocal group that sings in Zulu, Xhosa and English. They were formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1964 and have been performing ever since. Their music incorporates traditional Zulu folk music with influences from other genres like jazz and reggae.
The Mahotella Queens
The Mahotella Queens are a South African vocal group that formed in the late 1960s. They were among the first black South African artists to have international success, winning many awards including a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2005.
The group was formed by Joseph Shabalala (of Ladysmith Black Mambazo), who wanted to create a female counterpart to his male singing group. The original lineup included five female singers: Nobesuthu Mbadu, Lerato Shozi, Nokukhanya Mbauya and Thandi Klaasen; they were later joined by Msizi Dlamini and Makhosini Vi$$er before disbanding in 1979. In 2004 they reunited with new members Thandiswa Mazwai and Zemogetswe Nkosi joining them onstage at WOMAD Festival UK where they performed an album titled “Mahotella Queens Live at WOMAD’04”.
Koffi Olomide is a Congolese musician who is known for his energetic live shows. His music is a fusion of traditional Congolese music, R&B and hip-hop. He has won several awards for his work, including the Kora Award for Best African Artist in 2003 and 2005.
Salif Keita is a Malian musician known for his beautiful voice and musical style. He was born in 1949, but it wasn’t until he released his first album in 1972 that he became well-known. He has since released more than 40 albums, including classics like Soro and Le Voyageur.
Salif’s music is influenced by traditional Malian music such as Bambara, Wassoulou (also called Sousou) and Wassolon styles that were popularized by artists like Ali Farka Toure and Habib Koite before him. He sings about love lost or found, political issues affecting Africa today as well as spirituality through Islam – which Salif practices himself despite being raised Catholic by his father who was also an accomplished musician!
Lucky Dube was a South African reggae musician who was born in the Soweto township, Johannesburg. He is best known for his work with Black Umfolosi and his solo career.
Dube recorded his first album, titled Lucky Dube which was released in 1988 by Gallo Records and re-released in 2004 by Sony Music Entertainment (Sony BMG). The album won him several awards including Best Male Vocalist at the 1990 Metro FM Music Awards held in Pretoria, South Africa; Best Selling Album of 1990 awarded by Kaya FM; Best Traditional Roots Album at Zimbabwe’s 1991 Chitungwiza Cultural Festival; Best Male Artist at Nigeria’s 1992 Lagos State Arts Festival Awards Ceremony held on January 6th 1993 as well as Best Traditional Roots Album award given during this same event were also awarded two weeks later on February 3rd 1993 while giving another award ceremony called Nigeria Music Awards or NMA where he won both “Best Traditional Roots” & “Best Female Artist” categories which took place on March 26th 1993 after being nominated twice before winning those awards back then but lost both times so now she has three trophies under her belt thanks to us helping them out big time!
Check out these artists as you travel in Africa.
As you travel through Africa, there are a number of artists to keep in mind. Here are 10 artists that should be high on your list of “must listen to” music while on the road.
This is not a ranked list and it’s impossible to put any one artist above another; there are so many great African musicians out there!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the top 10 African artists. We know it’s not a definitive list, but we think it covers some of the most influential and important artists from across the continent. In addition to being great musicians, each one has played an important role in shaping Africa’s cultural identity. So if you’re planning a trip to Africa or just want something new to listen to on your commute home tonight, then check out these artists!