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Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

Article

Julia A. Clancy-Smith

Tunisian musician, was born in Carthage, a suburb of Tunis, in 1962. North African women have long, rich traditions of vocal and instrumental music. At weddings and other joyous occasions, including religious festivals, female musicians sing, perform, and dance. In addition, the celebrated Tunisian singer and actress Habiba Messika (1893?–1930) composed songs during the period 1920–1930 that are still performed today. One of the most popular singers and composers in contemporary North Africa and Europe is another Tunisian woman, Amina Annabi, whose music—and life—fuses traditional Arab, Middle Eastern, and West African musical genres with Western music, particularly blues, jazz, reggae, rap, and rock and roll. Annabi’s is a complicated story, however, since it is not merely the tale of a talented musician making it in the world music movement from the 1980s on Her life is intertwined with the postcolonial reality of millions of North Africans who reside ...

Article

Nate Plageman

Nigerian musician and juju pioneer, was born in Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria. His father, a carpenter for the Nigerian Railways Corporation, enrolled Dairo in a Church Missionary Society primary school in Offa. After two years, financial strain forced Dairo to abandon his studies and return to Ijebu-Ijesa, where he took up work as a barber despite his young age. After leaving school, Dairo developed a keen interest in juju, a genre of popular music that originated among the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria. Early juju musicians fused elements from local music (including oriki or Yoruba praise songs), popular percussive styles, and palm-wine guitar music together into a new form that emphasized choral singing and call-and-response vocal phrasing. At the time of Dairo’s childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, juju ensembles performed in a range of settings and had broad appeal but their members found themselves subject to ...

Article

Heather A. Maxwell

master Mande musician of the kora, was born on 10 August 1965, in Bamako, the capital of Mali; his father was Sidiki Diabaté (c. 1922–1996) and his mother was Nene Koita. Known as one of the most versatile and creative kora players of his generation, Grammy Award–winner Toumani is also widely recognized as the best kora player of his generation. He is also credited for combining the kora with modern electronic instruments and ensembles, galvanizing it as an instrument of choice in world music.

The kora is a melodic twenty-one-string, calabash harp unique to the Mande region in West Africa. It is exclusively played by a few patronymic groups of the hereditary jeli endogamous group (griot in French The Diabatés are one of the most prestigious families associated with the kora Toumani s ancestors trace back to the royal courts of the thirteenth century during the time ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Cesaria Evora was one of seven children in a musical family in Mindelo, a town in the island nation of Cape Verde off the West African coast. Musicians in the family included her violinist father, who died when she was a child, and her uncle Francisco Xavier da Cruz, a songwriter whose songs Evora has recorded. Evora was singing in bars in Mindelo by the age of sixteen.

Evora sings in Criuolo, a Creole derived from Portuguese and African languages. She is most famous for singing morna which roughly translates to songs of mourning As with many other kinds of folk music morna songs are handed down from generation to generation tracing dominant themes in a people s history Many morna songs for example lament Cape Verdean losses to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and to and emigration Often accompanied by acoustic guitars violins accordions and cavaquinho a four string ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

traditional singer of finaçon and Cape Verdean cultural icon, was born Maria Inácia Gomes Correia on Santiago Island, Cape Verde, on 18 July 1925. Nácia Gomes, also known as “Nha Nácia Gomi” (Mrs. Nacia Gomes), was one of twelve children. Gomes and her siblings were raised as strict followers of the Catholic Church. Gomes never received a formal education as a child and did not know how to read and write. Between the ages of ten and twelve years, she began singing a genre of Cape Verdean music based on African traditions, common to the island of Santiago. The singers of finaçon, generally women, known as finaderas, improvised verses about village events; celebrated farming festivals, births, marriages, saints’ days, and christenings; and commemorated deaths. Finaçon is often performed as a competitive song duel which is highly rhythmic and entertaining It also features one person who performs ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Khaled Hadj Brahim was born and raised in Oran, a cosmopolitan port city with a rich musical tradition. By age ten he was playing the harmonica, bass, guitar, and accordion, and with his first single “La Route de Lycée” (The Road to School; 1974), recorded at age fourteen, he emerged as an underground sensation on the Algerian pop scene. He took the name “Cheb,” or “young,” Khaled, to mark himself as part of a youth culture ready to change Algeria.

During the late 1970s and 1980s Khaled reworked Rai an improvisational folk music that emerged from the bars and bordellos of Oran during the 1920s Holding on to the sounds of the traditional instruments and the outspoken often sexually provocative lyrics Khaled added the Western sounds of drum machines synthesizers and electric guitars The new Rai which means opinion in Arabic appealed to youths disenchanted with traditional romantic ...

Article

Ted Swedenburg

the Algerian rai singer known as the “King of Rai,” was born Khaled Hadj Brahim on 29 February 1960, to a family of modest means in the port city of Oran, Algeria, the heartland of rai music. He began singing at weddings at the age of nine, and at eleven formed Les Cinqs Étoiles, a group that performed in the style of the Moroccan neo-folk ensemble Nass El Ghiwane. In 1975, at age fifteen, he made his first recording, a 45 rpm single called “Trig Lycée.” Khaled released numerous cassettes during the late 1970s and early 1980s, after cassette recordings replaced vinyl. His reputation grew apace, and he began to perform outside Oran, calling himself Cheb Khaled, Cheb meaning “kid.”

Although popular at clubs and as a wedding performer Cheb Khaled s music and rai in general was kept off state controlled radio and television due to an ...

Article

Tiffany Gleason

internationally known singer and performer from Benin, was born Angélique Kpasseloko Hunto Hounsinou Kango Manta Zogbin on 14 July 1960 in Ouidah, Benin, to Franck Zogbin, a postal worker from the Fon ethnic group, and Yvonne Kidjo, a Yoruba woman. Kidjo was a choreographer and dancer, and at six years old, Angélique began to perform with her. Kidjo’s father played the banjo and she sang along with him from an early age. One of eight siblings, by the age of eleven, she was singing with her older brothers in their band, the Kidjo Brothers. By the time she was a teenager, she was singing on the radio in Cotonou, Benin.

Her first success came when a Cameroonian producer and friend of one of her brothers helped her record her music in 1983 She then moved to Paris where she initially enrolled in law school but dropped out after a ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

With music that blends African and Western influences, Angélique Kidjo has become a crossover star, winning worldwide popularity, as well as a role model for women and girls in her native Benin. Kidjo was born in Cotonou, Benin, as one of nine children in a musical family. She remembers her older siblings singing folkloric Beninese songs as part of the Kidjo Brothers Band, in addition to songs by American rock and roll stars. When Kidjo began making her own music, she was influenced both by the West African rhythms of her homeland and by the American soul and pop music she heard on the radio. As a solo singer, she developed a local following by the late 1970s.

Rather than stay in Benin, where she faced pressures to perform propaganda for the communist government, in 1983 Kidjo moved to Paris and studied jazz and opera She quickly became ...

Article

Emmanuel Asiedu-Acquah

folk musician and ethnomusicologist, was born on 3 October 1934 in the Asante village of Foase in colonial era Ghana He was named Daniel Amponsah at birth His musically inclined parents were an early influence on him His father Kwame Amponsah played the trumpet and guitar while his mother sang in the choir at the local Methodist church Through his sister s marriage to a member of the Ashanti royal family the preteen Koo Nimo moved to Kumasi the capital of the Asante kingdom His stay in Kumasi and his proximity to Asante royalty immersed him in the cultural lore and traditions of the Asante and by extension the Akan This cultural immersion was to become an important influence in his music He had his secondary school education at the prestigious Adisadel College in Cape Coast His postsecondary education was in the sciences and he always maintained a professional ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Malian musician, was born on 25 February 1969 in Bamako, Mali. When Sangare was two years old, her father emigrated to the Ivory Coast to search for employment and married a second wife. Mali was one of the poorest countries in West Africa in the late twentieth century, and many men left their families to make a living. The relatives they left behind would often experience adversity, and Sangare’s family was no exception. Her mother was a singer and she managed to keep her family fed through her performances at wedding and birth ceremonies organized by other women. Sangare later noted, “She brought up six children on her own, with no money. Sometimes all she could find to feed us with was wild herbs” (Oumou Sangare official website). By 1974 Sangare accompanied her mother to these performances and soon developed a love of singing Sangare started to sing at ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Known as the songbird of Mali, Oumou Sangaré uses a mix of traditional and modern instruments, along with her powerful voice, to update Mali’s renowned Wassoulou sound. Based on music made by hunters, these old songs asked for protection and good fortune in the densely forested Wassoulou region. Sangaré, who says she sings “for the women,” retains much of the original sound—using guitar, kamelen ngoni (a small, harplike stringed instrument), and a variety of percussion instruments. To these she adds lyrics dealing with the status of women in a changing Africa.

“In Africa it’s still men who make all the decisions,” Sangaré says. “It’s time for women to be heard.” Accordingly, one song on her third album, Worotan (1997 describes the outcast status of childless women while others deal with domestic abuse and polygamy She feels very strongly about freedom of choice in marriage as her father ...