This weekend BBC 6 Music celebrates the vibrant, diverse music of Africa, beginning with an Afro-mix by Django Django drummer Dave Maclean in Tom Ravenscroft’s Friday night show and with a centrepiece of a documentary on Sunday by Gemma Cairney on the Malian music scene and its struggles to stay alive in the face of an Islamic crackdown on the playing of music — see an audio slideshow from the programme here. For a rundown of shows in the 6 Music Celebrates African Music weekend visit here.
In the meantime, Gideon Coe heralds the start of the weekend with his selection of six of the best albums to serve as an introduction to the delights of African music.
Fela Kuti – Expensive Shit
“Have to feature something from Fela Kuti in this list and I’ve gone for this, his 12th LP with Africa 70. This is all of two songs long but, fortunately, they are both rather wonderful. You get the title track and Water No Get Enemy. I play the latter at my son’s school fair in the summer and it always goes down well. Not done that with the title track yet. There’s no band like it. Those horns never fail to lift my spirits. The story of how the record got its name is something of an eyebrow-raiser.”
Four Brothers – Makorokoto
“Up there with the best bands in the world. This compilation features many of their finest moments, some of which they also recorded in session for John Peel and Andy Kershaw at the BBC, including Rugare, Rudo Imoto and Pasi Paso Pane Zveidzo. Sorry if that last sentence made it sound like an advert but this is a group that everyone should investigate.”
Orchestra Baobab – Made in Dakar
“They had returned after a 16 year hiatus in 2002 and then five years later released this LP. The first riff I reallly got into on the record comes from guitarist Bathelemy Attisso on Ndeleng Ndeleng. I’ve played it a lot on the programme over the past few years. But there are many Attisso flashes of brilliance on the album, and indeed from the rest of the musicians, including Yousou N’Dour and Assane Mboup. As vibrant a record as you could wish for.”
Ali Farka Touré – Savane
“The final solo LP from one of Africa’s towering figures in music. Much has been said about the connection between his music (he was from Mali) and North American blues and you can hear that once again on this album. Not least on a song like Ledi Coumbe, which features Little George Sueref on harmonica. Ali Farka Touré approved the final master a few weeks before his death and, in the accompanying publicity material for its posthumous release, declared it to be his best album ever. A mesmerising record.”
Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata: The Hit Sound of Miriam Makeba
“Featuring her worldwide hit in the title track which was a hit in the States ten years after she recorded it – it had already been a radio hit in South Africa. She was exiled from South Africa for 30 years, only returning, at Mandela’s request, in June 1990. This album has many examples of what made her such a fine singer and songwriter. Really like Jol’Inkomo on this album. Another key figure, musically and politically.”
Kanda Bongo Man – Iyole
“This is Soukous music at its most infectiously brilliant and with this, his breakthrough record, you not only get Kanda Bongo Man but also Diblo Dibala — one of the finest guitarists you’re ever likely to hear — nicknamed “Machine Gun” due to his brilliant playing. Listen to the title track and fall in love with music all over again. Kanda Bongo Man is still touring regularly in Europe. Go and see him if you get the chance. Diblo’s latest band is called Matchatcha. Equally worth catching.”