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Ethan R. Sanders

intellectual, pan-African thinker, educator, and Christian preacher, was born in Anomabo, Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 18 October 1875. His father was Kodwo Kwegyir (1816–1896) of the Fante people who was the Omankyiame or hereditary spokesman for the paramount chief of Anomabo, and his mother was Abna Andua, scion of a chiefly family. At the age of eight, Aggrey left his home to attend the Methodist school in Cape Coast. In 1890 he started teaching in a rural village school and the following year returned to Cape Coast to become an assistant teacher at the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School where he soon advanced to a senior position At this early stage in his life Aggrey became interested in Christian ministry He began preaching at sixteen and later assisted in the translation of a Fante language New Testament During this time Aggrey also became involved with the ...

Article

Cyril Daddieh

Ivorian reggae music star, was born in Dimbokro on 1 January 1953 to a Muslim mother and a Christian father. The oldest of nine children, he was named Seydou Koné, after his grandfather, and brought up by his grandmother, Cheri Coco, in the Muslim faith. Early signs of rebelliousness prompted his exasperated grandmother to call him “blondy,” an apparent mispronunciation of “bandit” (troublemaker). Reunited with his father in Odienné in 1962, young Blondy spent the next ten years attending Saint Elisabeth High School, where he became involved in student politics and also developed an interest in music. Expelled from school for an altercation with his math teacher, Blondy went to Monrovia, Liberia, to study English. He proceeded to the United States, settled in New York in 1973 and enrolled first in Hunter College and later in the Columbia University s American Language Program to pursue a career as ...

Article

David B. Coplan

South African musician, was born in the small Zulu Christian settlement of Siyamu, near Edendale, Natal, in 1895, the only child of Mordecai and Mejile Caluza. Caluza was the great-grandson of one of the original converts who arrived at Edendale with the Reverend Mr. Allison in the late 1840s. Multi-part vocal music had strong roots in Zulu indigenous culture and for the Christians of Edenvale served as an important expression and symbol of progress, self-improvement, and “civilization.” Caluza came from a family that was notably musical even by Edendale’s high standards, and his grandfather, John, was renowned for his ability to read staff notation and conduct a choir.

Reuben s family and in laws also included teachers preachers landowners writers and other members of the Zulu westernized elite of the period Between the time of Reuben s birth and the Great Depression this class of self employed Christian ...

Article

Robert Fay

Although information about Dusé Mohammed Ali’s origins is sparse and inexact, Dusé claimed that he was born in Egypt to an Egyptian army officer and a Sudanese mother. In 1876 he was sent to England for an education. As a young man he took up acting and toured the United States and Canada before returning to England in 1898.

Dusé left acting in 1909 for a career as a journalist, publishing articles critical of British racism and imperialism in the Islamic Review and the New Age, a leading socialist literary journal. In 1911 Dusé published In the Land of the Pharaohs, a short anti-imperialist history of Egypt, much of which he was accused of plagiarizing. Nevertheless, the book enjoyed an enthusiastic reception among black intellectuals of the day.

In 1911 Dusé began to publish African Times and Orient Review While the publication failed to gain a ...

Article

Jay Straker

Guinean choreographer and statesman, was born in the Maninka (Malinké) town of Siguiri in northeastern French Guinea (today’s Republic of Guinea) in 1921. His father was an educated merchant. His mother was of the Diabaté jeli (or griot, praise singer) lineage. Acquainted with reputable local artists from an early age, including a griot that performed at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, Keita quickly excelled in both music and French schooling, learning the banjo and gaining entry into colonial Guinea’s most prestigious school—the École Primaire Supérieure located in the capital city of Conakry. While earning high academic marks in Conakry (1937–1940), Keita also led a band whose songs incorporated diverse global influences. This youthful demonstration of leadership and comprehensive artistic vision foretold of Keita’s eventual career as one of Africa’s greatest, most influential choreographers.

Like many of the brightest young men who came of age in French West Africa over ...

Article

Sola Olorunyomi

Nigerian musician and political activist, was born Fela Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta Nigeria to the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome Kuti a clergyman and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti née Thomas a women s activist Fela along with his mother would later drop the Ransome from his name as a rejection of British colonialism and adopt the Yoruba middle name Anikulapo which means one who has death in his pocket Fela was the fourth of five children born into the Ransome Kuti family which belonged to the Ègbá Yorùbá community One of his older brothers Olikoye Ransome Kuti was a noted medical doctor and Nigerian minister of health Another brother Beko Ransome Kuti was a leading human rights activist The Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was a cousin Though he was deprived of interacting with the vital and deep rooted Ègbá cultural tradition as a youth his ...

Article

Lara Allen

South African singer and activist, was born on 4 March 1932 in Prospect Township, Johannesburg, South Africa. Her father Caswell Makeba, who died when Makeba was 6, was a Xhosa teacher. Her mother Christina Makeba, who was Swazi, was a domestic worker and a traditional healer. Makeba went to school at the Kilnerton Training Institute, a Methodist Church school in Pretoria. In 1949 Makeba married James Kubay and gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Bongi. The marriage disintegrated after two years. Makeba supported herself and her daughter by going into domestic service and by singing with a male close-harmony group called the Cuban Brothers.

In 1954 Makeba was invited to join the Manhattan Brothers, South Africa’s top black singing group of the period. The Manhattan Brothers groomed and promoted Makeba as their lead vocalist, effectively launching her career. The group remained together until 1957 during which ...

Article

Throughout her life and singing career, Miriam Zenzi Makeba has used her voice, which journalist Michael A. Hiltzik described as having “the clarity of a Joan Baez with the timing and throaty authority of a Sarah Vaughan,” to draw the attention of the world to the music of South Africa and to its oppressive system of racial separation, Apartheid. Born in Prospect Township, Makeba became an indirect victim of South African policies at the age of eighteen days when she began serving a six-month prison term with her mother for illegally selling traditional Swazi homemade beer as a result of economic necessity. For eight years Makeba attended the Kilmerton Training School in Pretoria, where she sang in the school choir. During her teenage years, Makeba assisted her mother with the domestic work she did for white families.

She also pursued singing and in 1950 joined an amateur Johannesburg ...

Article

Elias Bongmba

Congolese (Democratic Republic of the Congo [DCR]) composer, guitarist, poet, social critic, satirist, political commentator, and orchestra leader, whose full name was L’Okanga La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi alias Franco, reigned for more than thirty years as king of rumba, a wizard of orchestration, and a monument of the Congolese and the African song. He certainly was one of the intellectual giants of Africa in the twentieth century.

Makiadi was born in Sona Bata on 6 July 1938 to Joseph Emongo and his wife Mbonga Makiesse. He left school and focused on music, and made his own guitar at age 7. In 1953 Franco recorded his first song, “Bolingo na ngai na Beatrice” (My Love for Beatrice), beginning a long engagement with themes dealing with love and women.

Paul Dewayon served as a mentor to the young Franco During his long career Makiadi and his exemplary musicians recorded over 150 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on 2 July 1945 to a family belonging to the Shona ethnic community. His hometown was located close to Harare (then Salisbury), the capital of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Mapfumo lived a fairly traditional rural lifestyle as a child. His grandparents raised him for his first ten years. As a young child on a rural farm, he watched over his family’s cattle herds and became familiar with older Shona musical styles. He became interested in songs particularly accompanied by ngoma drums and the mbira thumb-piano, which became his signature instrument later in his career.

When he was ten his father brought him to live at the family home in the Mbare township in Harare to attend school In the early 1960s the adolescent Mapfumo was exposed to the growing political crises over Southern Rhodesia s future While African political groups wanted the ...

Article

Abdul Karim Bangura

Paul Leroy Bastill Robeson’s character and worldview were the products of a complex mix of forces at a time when segregation was legal in the United States and blacks were being lynched by white mobs especially in the South It is within this historical context that Robeson was able to forge a revolutionary ethic from a religion that allows African influences through musical creativity that did not divorce the sacred from the secular Although he spent eight years in segregated elementary schools during his high school days Robeson had positive encounters with whites with the exception of a racist principal who hated him because of his outstanding scholarly and athletic qualities Consequently Robeson perceived whites on balance as individuals but he also realized that most of them did not welcome competition from blacks Because his father insisted on personal integrity which included the idea of maximum human fulfillment throughout ...

Article

Sterling Recker

Rwandan poet, scholar, and composer, was born Sipiriyani Rugamba in Rwamiko in southern Rwanda. He was a member of the Hutu ethnic group but was considered by many to be a Rwandan who created art for all people due to the general impression that his works, which included actors from all ethnic groups, embodied a concentrated focus on writing about Rwandan history and culture, regardless of ethnicity. Due to his affinity for Rwanda culture, he wrote music that spoke to Rwandans by approaching his craft from an African perspective as opposed to other writers and composers of his era who incorporated European aspects of art into their own. Rugamba was known to incorporate Rwanda’s past into his works in order to create an art form that was distinctly Rwandan.

Rugamba studied philosophy and literature and received a doctorate in history at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium Soon after ...

Article

Sada Niang

Senegalese actor, writer, filmmaker, and political activist, was born on 1 January 1923 in Casamance, in present-day Senegal. His father, Moussa Sembène, was a fisherman, a respected elder in Ziguinchor, and a devout Muslim yet a man with a strong sense of his personal freedom. Both father and mother (Ramatoulaye Ndiaye) belonged to the Lebou ethnic group from the Dakar-Rufisque area. Sembène was born a French citizen. His relatives were landowners in present-day Dakar Plateau (downtown Dakar), teachers, religious leaders, and construction contractors.

Sembène grew up in Casamance As a teenager he attended school in Ziguinchor for a few years but was soon dismissed for assaulting a teacher who demanded that he sing the Marseillaise in Corsican Moussa Sembène supported the decision of his son taking him fishing for a time before deciding that the young Sembène would be better off with relatives in the big city In prewar Dakar ...

Article

Livia Apa

Mauritanian film director and producer, was born 13 October 1961 in Kiffa, Mauritania, to a Mauritanian mother and a Malian father. As he has recounted in numerous interviews, his early years were marked by the intense “presence” of his absent half brother, his mother’s child by her first husband, who took the boy away to live with him in Algeria. As he was growing up, Sissako’s mother talked to him incessantly about her absent son, and he longed to occupy the same privileged position in her affections as his half brother did. When he was seven years old, Sissako met his considerably older half brother, who was about to depart for Russia to study filmmaking, as Sissako himself would eventually end up doing.

His family emigrated to Bamako Mali soon after his birth and Sissako spent a good part of his childhood there the homeland of his father a meteorologist ...

Article

Zapiro  

Sean Jacobs

South African political cartoonist, satirist, and animator, was born Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1958. His father, Gershon Shapiro, was a lawyer, and his mother, Gaby, a prominent antiapartheid political activist. Gershon Shapiro was a descendant of Lithuanian Jews who had immigrated to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, fleeing Russian anti-Semitism. Gaby Shapiro was born in 1930 in Berlin, Germany. Her family fled to London in 1937 to escape the Nazi Holocaust of Jews on continental Europe. Zapiro’s parents met and married while they were students at the London School of Economics in 1956 before moving to South Africa Zapiro is one of four children he has one brother and two sisters Zapiro grew up in Rondebosch a suburb of Cape Town where he also completed his elementary and high school education A high school classmate gave him the nickname Zapiro He ...