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Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean Tigrinya singer and performer, songwriter, instrument player, and music composer, was born in the city of Asmara. During the Eritrean war of liberation (1961–1991), Abraham Afewerki and his family, like hundreds of thousands of other Eritreans, sought refuge in Sudan.

Abraham Afewerki became attracted by music and musical instruments at an early age. As a young child, he started playing famfam harmonica and singing at school events As a young boy with great artistic potential he joined the Qeyyahti Embaba Red Flowers of the Eritrean People s Liberation Front EPLF at the age of twelve The Red Flowers was a cultural troupe composed of young artists who performed cultural and revolutionary music and theater within Eritrea in areas controlled by the EPLF and Sudan A branch of the troupe of which Abraham Afewerki was a member was active in Khartoum By writing and composing his own ...

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Jeremy Rich

Nigerian pioneer of juju and world music star, was born Sunday Adeniyi Adé in the southwestern Nigerian city of Ondo on 22 September 1946. His father was a Methodist pastor and the organist for his church, while his mother engaged in various trading enterprises. Through his maternal grandfather, who lived in the town of Akoure, near Ondo, Ade was of royal lineage. By the time he reached his adolescent years, Adé had moved with his family to the town of Oshobo. Although he completed primary school, Adé ended up dropping out of secondary school before completing his studies. His lack of financial resources cut short his formal education. He already had developed eclectic tastes in music through his childhood and adolescent experiences. Traditional Yoruba music featuring drums fascinated the young boy, as did the occasional use of drums at church. Adé remembered in a 2005 interview that when ...

Article

Norman Weinstein

Sunday Anthony Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye, known internationally to African music fans as King Sunny Ade, was raised in a home where Christian and Yoruba religious and cultural perspectives were thoroughly intermingled. Ade's father was a church organist. Ade attended missionary schools, then dropped out of college in the 1960s to pursue a career as a drummer in Juju bands. Juju, a form of Nigerian pop music first developed by Yoruba musicians in the 1920s, was just beginning to gain an international audience. Ade's chief musical inspiration was I. K. Dairo, though Ade's later song lyrics drew more inspiration from his Christian education.

The early 1970s marked the birth of Ade s reputation as an African superstar with an international audience Ade deviated from the Dairo legacy through a series of innovations He expanded the juju band lineup from a single electric guitarist to as many as six played with at ...

Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

singer and musician, was born Mayra Andrade on 13 February 1985 in Cuba. Her mother, Dina Curado, was Cuban, and her father, Carlos Andrade, was an official for the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), under the leadership of revolutionary leader Amilcar Cabral. Cape Verde, a small island nation with a population of five hundred thousand on the coast of Senegal, West Africa, gained its independence from Portugal in 5 July 1975. It is one of several former Portuguese colonies in Africa. The others include Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Princípe.

Immediately after her birth in Cuba Mayra s parents traveled back to Cape Verde Mayra s parents separated while she was very young Mayra performed songs by famed Brazilian artist Caetano Veloso during family gatherings Veloso would later become her artistic inspiration She spent part of her childhood in the ...

Article

Joel Gordon

leading male vocalist of his generation in Egypt, composer and box- office sensation with a career spanning five decades, was born in Suwayda, a village in the Druze stronghold of Southern Syria. He was the eldest child of Fahd al-Atrash, an Ottoman official related to the leading Druze princely clan and Alia al-Mundhir, a Druze from Beirut. At the end of World War I, Fahd al-Atrash was posted in the Turkish district of Demirci. Fearing arrest, he fled with his family to Beirut; on the sea passage from Izmir, Alia gave birth to a daughter, Amal, whose fame as the musical artist Asmahan would equal, if not surpass, her older brother’s.

In 1923 against her husband s will Alia took her children to Damascus and then to Cairo She fled the violence that had followed the bombardment of the Druze stronghold in response to an attack on French forces ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

singer, was born Marie-Claire Mboyo Moseka on 14 August 1959 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She attended primary school in Kinshasa, but information about her family life and childhood is limited. Bel did have one famous relative: her aunt Lucie Eyenga, who had been a singing sensation in the Congo in the 1950s. Like so many other Congolese youth of her generation, Bel became a fan of the Congolese music scene that flourished in the 1970s. The grace and moving voice of the Togolese singer Bella Bellow made a deep impression on Bel as well. Rather than complete her secondary education, Bel decided to start her own career in entertainment in 1976 Bel became a dancer with the Les Redoubtables group of star female singer Abeti Masikini in the same year Masikini liked Bel s voice and soon Bel was one of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Togolese singer, was born Georgette Adjoavi Bellow in the town of Tsévié, near the Togolese capital of Lomé, on 1 January 1945. Her parents were both from immigrant families, as her father’s family had come from Nigeria and her mother’s family had come from Ghana. Bellow was one of seven children and the eldest daughter. Even when she was very young, her strong vocal skills drew attention. Bellow soon was called on to perform in various cultural and artistic events in her hometown. By 1950, she had moved to Lomé to attend primary school at the Catholic Notre Dame des Apôtres school. She finished her secondary education by passing her baccalaureate examinations in 1966 after having attending the Lycée Sokodé in central Togo and the Lycée Bonnecarrière in Lomé Like so many young female singers of the 1960s Bellow was deeply influenced by the legendary South African ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, popularly known as Pamelo Mounk’a, was born on 5 May 1945 in the village of Mana in the former French colony of Congo-Brazzaville (now the Republic of the Congo). His mother was Joséphine Lubelo and his father was Bingui. He completed primary school but became so enthralled with the Brazzaville and Kinshasa music scenes that he quit secondary school in his third year. Rather than continue his education, Bemba moved across the Congo River to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Congolese singer Tabu Ley and Joseph Kabasélé. The young man loved Latin rhythms. Bemba briefly performed with the CDJE group in the Poto-Poto neighborhood of Brazzaville. One of Bemba's brothers set up a meeting between Bemba and Ley in 1963 The established singer heard three songs by Bemba then calling himself ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in the city of Mbandaka, located on the Congo River in the what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His mother, Jeanne Bontone, was a member of the Ingende Mongo ethnic community of the DRC's Equateur Province. Bowane's father, Titi Raoul, came from the Congo-Brazzaville town of Sibiti. As a young man Bowane became captivated by rumba and big band music coming from the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. He later recalled a concert put on by Antoine Kolosoy Wendo in Mbandaka, and how impressed he was by Wendo's voice and fine dress. In 1946 Bowane decided to leave his home city and took a steamer down the Congo River to Kinshasa He became a regular patron of Kinshasa s lively bars and dance clubs such as the Kongo Bar and Congo Moderne Bowane was so impressed by the singing of Wendo and ...

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

Jeremy Rich

Malian musician, was born around 1925 in the town of Kela, a village located on the Niger River about 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the Malian capital of Bamako. Her family was legendary for their reputation as griot bards, whose knowledge was passed down in Mande-speaking families from generation to generation. Her grandfather Kelabalaba was said to be the first member of the Diabaté extended family to be the official reciter of the founding Sundiata epic of the ancient kingdom of Mali and its founder, Sunjata Keita (Mari Djata I). Her father, Bintu’amma, had a tremendous reputation as a musician as well, particularly of the ngoni flute.

Diabaté developed a regional reputation for her voice by the early 1940s Her song Sara one of her first hits described the struggles of a woman seeking to choose a husband It was said by some that Diabaté once had a ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Mauritanian musician, was born Loula Bint Siddati Ould Abba. Her parents were members of an iggawin family, musicians who are considered to be part of the lowest caste in Mauritanian society. Music compilations, praise songs, and historical knowledge of the griots were passed down in iggawin households. Griot families served to maintain historical and spiritual traditions through music and poetry throughout much of the West African interior. While griots were widely respected elsewhere, iggawin were considered to be marginal and poor people among many Mauritanians. This was the case for Dimi’s immediate family as well.

Both her mother Fire Mounina Mint Eida and her father Siday Ould Abba were musicians At the age of ten her mother taught her how to play the adrin a stringed instrument similar to the better known kora albeit a bit smaller Her father composed the Mauritanian national anthem Dimi began to play and sing ...

Article

Foluke Ogunleye

Nigerian actress and singer, was born in Ijan-Ekiti to a royal family. She completed her secondary education in 1963 and nurtured the ambition of training as a nurse. However, her plans changed when she joined Duro Ladipo’s theater company in 1963 as staff number forty-four and was immediately made the leader of the women’s group. Ulli Beier (Duro Ladipo’s mentor), encouraged Duro Ladipo to keep her as part of his troupe because of her talent and zeal for the theater—even if it meant marrying her. She later married Duro Ladipo in January 1964.

Abiodun Duro-Ladipo is best known for her roles in the epics directed by her husband. She played the role of the eponymous heroine in Moremi, the winsome goddess, Oya, in Duro Ladipo’s most enchanting play, Oba Koso just to mention a few For fifteen years Abiodun Duro Ladipo remained a prominent actress playing major ...

Article

Azeddine Chergui and Hassan Bourara

Moroccan comedian, singer-composer, and film director, was born David Bensoussan on 17 April 1971 in Casablanca. His father, a mime artist, instilled in him the love of the stage at a very young age. At the age of seventeen, he moved to Quebec in Canada, a way for him to achieve the American dream without the linguistic requirement. In Canada he was initiated into the theater, had a few experiences with radio, and sporadically performed in cabarets. Intent on becoming a professional, he left for Paris and enrolled in the Cours Florent drama school, from which he graduated two years later.

His first stand-up comedy show, the autobiographical Décalages ensued immediately with a first tour to Quebec Morocco and Paris This show embodies the quintessential Gad Elmaleh a Moroccan Jew proud of his origins confronting new cultures where he must constantly negotiate his own space and define his identity ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

singer and musician, was born on 20 May 1954 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the decade before the end of Belgian colonial rule. His father, Joseph Evoloko Itondeya, originally came from the western inland river city of Mbandaka, while his mother, Anne Aminata Elite, came from Basoko in the country's northern region. By 1960 Evoloko was already a member of the children's singing group Xaveri. He also sang in a church choir at St. Gabriel, a church in the Kalamu neighborhood of Kinshasa. At the age of only fifteen he joined his first band, Le Maps Iyambule, led by singer Touissant Bobabo, but this stint did not last long. A group of adolescents, including D. V. Moanda, Nyoka Longo, and Papa Wemba, invited Evoloko to join their new band Zaiko in 1969 This group began to play at the Hawaii Bar ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

Cape Verdean singer, was born on 27 August 1941 in São Vicente, Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony that gained its independence on 5 July 1975. Cesaria Evora, commonly known as Cize, was one of five siblings. Her mother Joana worked as a maid, and her father Justino was a musician. Justino, who played the cavaquinho (ukulele), guitar, and violin and was a friend of the great Cape Verdean composer B. Leza, died when Cesaria Evora was a young girl. Evora was raised by her grandmother and educated by Catholic nuns.

As a young woman, Evora performed in bars and on the main square of Mindelo, the capital city of São Vicente. She sang traditional Cape Verdean music such as Morna, similar to American blues and Portuguese Fado, as well as Coladera an upbeat genre of music Evora also performed on ships docked in the main ...

Article

Lara Allen

singer and musician, was born in Langa township, Cape Town, South Africa, on 3 November 1964. The youngest in a musical family of nine, Fassie’s first stage appearance was as the leader of the Tiny Tots at the age of four. As an adolescent, frustrated by the lack of local opportunity, Fassie ran away to Johannesburg and joined the musical drama troupe run by the township playwright and producer Gibson Kente. Although she returned to Langa within a year, Fassie was drawn back to Johannesburg in 1979 by the music producer Koloi Lebona.

Fassie’s recording and singing career started in earnest when she became the lead singer for Blondie and Pappa’s township pop band called The Family. This ensemble renamed itself Brenda and the Big Dudes in 1983 and released the hit single Weekend Special a funky disco number about adultery that ultimately sold over 200 000 copies ...

Article

Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...