Africa Day: Get your funk on with five great musical tributes to the continent

From Sly to Fela, reggae to hip-hop, the world is indebted to the rich musical and cultural history of Africa. Here are five examples of that influence.

Five songs about Africa for Africa Day
Nigerian Afro-funk superstar Fela Kuti was a pioneer in bringing African music to global audiences in the 1970s. Fusing political consciousness with catchy funk rhythms, Kuti and his evolving musical collective, Africa 70, influenced a host of modern hip-hop, electronica and jazz artists. (Image: Wikipedia)

CD Anderson

The world of music owes its origins and a monumental debt of gratitude to the rhythms and melodies of Africa. From the continent’s rich oral storytelling traditions that evolved into spoken word poetry and hip-hop, to the mournful makeshift simplicity of acoustic music that became blues and jazz, and powerful natural percussions that would ultimately get the rest of the world dancing to rock, reggae and funk, Africa is truly the ground zero of the global heartbeat.

To celebrate Africa Day, here are just five examples of that overwhelming musical influence, five deep cuts from legendary African and global artists that not only pay tribute to Africa, but also celebrate its people and the undeniable pulse that those of us who live here feel every day.

Fela Kuti — Lady

Nigerian Afro-funk superstar Fela Kuti was more than just another musician; he was a cultural movement, a religion and a seismic introduction to African music for the rest of the world.

With pulsating, addictive hit singles and electric live performances, Kuti and his ever-growing music and dance entourage, Africa 70, travelled the world delivering uncompromising, unashamed African pride.

Kuti’s Afro-funk sounds influenced some of the world’s biggest hip-hop, electronic and jazz artists seeking to push the envelope of music.

The Meters — Africa

The premier New Orleans soul funk family was the bridge between the motherland and the Caribbean, the old and the new worlds. On this tribute to the continent, The Meters tinge their swampy soul music with just enough voodoo rhythm and lyrical legend-building to get people thinking while dancing.

Sly and the Family Stone — Thank you for talking to me Africa

Sly Stone’s multicultural musical collective ruled both white and black airwaves in the 1960s and 1970s with charged political statements wrapped up in catchy musical hooks. And while much of their music owed more to the trailblazing funk soul of James Brown and rock sensibilities of Jimi Hendrix, the Family Stone’s tight rhythm section – led by bass guitar innovator Larry Graham – had their feet firmly planted in Kuti’s Africa.

BCUC — Yinde

South Africa’s best kept musical secret, more appreciated around the rest of the world and on the continent than at home, Soweto’s Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC) offer genre-bending musical theatre and triumphant black consciousness, telling African stories using African methods of dance, words and art.

Lee Scratch Perry — African Freedom

The musical connections between Jamaica and Africa are steeped in their shared political and cultural history, and that marriage of sound and fury are best embodied by the father of dub reggae, Lee Scratch Perry.

From Haile Selassie to Nelson Mandela, the celebration of Africa’s heroes is vital to reggae’s undying spirit and its continued popularity around the world.

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube

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