I’ve had a passion for contemporary African music since the early 1980s, when I bought my first LPs by South Africa’s (late) Hugh Masekela and Cameroon’s Manu Dibango, went to my first African gig (the Congolese superstar Sam Mangwana and the African Allstars, at London’s Dominion Theatre near Waterloo). In the years since I’ve collected 1000s of LPs, cassettes, CDs and MP3s.
Before traveling to any city, I look up where its African quarter is and try to get out there to see if there are any music shops and bars. Music shops are very sadly becoming a thing of the past as people move to digital access. I spent many lunch hours listening to music at Stern’s African Record Centre in Whitfield St just behind Tottenham Court Rd in London when I was studying there between March 1984‑November 1985. They are now an on-line shop and also have a blog.
I subscribe to the monthly email from Alastair Johnston’s invaluable Musikifan record review page, buy lots of books on African music, and maintain an ever-expanding Spotify African page. While for some artists it can be very patchy, Spotify has a delightfully vast range of African music, including a lot of very obscure archival music, sometimes replete with scratchy sounds from the old LPs from where it has been digitised.
I have recently started a Youtube page with live African music concerts.
Over the next months, I’ll post country-by-country blogs with lots of recommendations for those starting out to explore the vast catalogue of African music. I’ll only be including those that I like, with links to the tracks on my Spotify page or to Youtube when they are not available on Spotify. These are just a taste that I hope might infect you in the way I was.
Senegal selections here
Zimbabwe selection here