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Wolfgang Bender

A style of African popular music. The term was coined in 1967 by Fela Kuti, who was known as ‘the king of Afrobeat’. Fela played Highlife music while studying music at Trinity College of Music, London (1958–63). Upon his return to Nigeria he referred to the style as ‘highlife jazz’. Geraldo Pino from Sierra Leone visited Lagos around 1966, playing a style referred to as Afro-soul. Pino's success encouraged Fela to develop an individual style.

Fela toured the USA in 1969 and was exposed to that country's Black Power movement. He also heard free jazz and rhythm and blues. His awareness of the political power of music is reflected in his subsequent development of Afrobeat, a fusion of jazz, soul and African musics with lyrics in Pidgin and Yoruba. He consciously highlighted the Africanness of his own music, claiming that he played African music since jazz was originally an African form of music....

Article

Benga  

Gregory F. Barz

Term used in Kenya to refer to a variety of popular music forms. It is used in particular to refer to a style of music that emerged in the 1960s among the Luo people in the area surrounding Lake Victoria in western Kenya. Kikuyu and Kamba musicians also developed regional variations of benga. The benga guitar-based style became nationally recognized during the 1970s. The roots of the guitar-playing style may be found in nyatiti (lyre) playing; the interaction of bass and lead guitars in benga resembles the interdependence of the bass and the treble in nyatiti playing. Benga is characterized by a tight blend of vocals and lead and bass guitars, with the bass guitar providing a strong rhythmic pulsation throughout. D.O. Misiani was a highly important figure in the development of Luo benga, and he and his group Shirati Jazz became widely known for their benga recordings and performances; other noted performers include the Victoria Kings and George Ramogi. Joseph Kamaru was active in the development of Kikuyu ...

Article

Lara Allen

South African popular music style. The worldwide popularity of disco during the 1980s spawned a South African township variant commonly called ‘bubblegum’, although its exponents prefer the official classification ‘township pop’. Catering for the tastes of the black urban youth, bubblegum retains some indigenous characteristics such as call-and-response in the vocal parts, but is dominated by synthesizers and a disco beat, commonly supplied by a drum box. Lyrics are often in English, although vernacular languages and the latest phrases in township lingua franca are also used.

The icon of township pop was Brenda Fassie (1964–2004), who enjoyed more top-selling albums over a longer period than any other female singer. Her closest competitor, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, is known as the ‘Princess of Africa’ for her popularity throughout the continent. The most successful male vocalists and producers are Dan Tshanda with his group Splash and Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala. In the mid-1990s the township dance music market was taken over by ...

Article

Moya Aliya Malamusi

Zimbabwean urban popular music style. In the Shona language of the Republic of Zimbabwe chimurenga means ‘fighting in which everyone joins’ but has also been used to mean ‘liberation war’. After UDI (1965), the liberation war waged by ZANU and ZAPU guerrillas from Mozambique and Zambia intensified. In the 1970s a new form of urban music developed in Zimbabwe, drawing together the traditional harmonic patterns of the mbira and elements of earlier Zimbabwean and South African popular guitar styles. The song texts in Shona often transmitted secret messages about the liberation war (chimurenga) and the new music became associated with the struggle for liberation from the regime of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian settlers. Thomas Mapfumo was important in the early development of chimurenga music, and during the late 1970s and early 1980s many other performers became involved in the new music, notably Oliver Mutukudzi.

After Zimbabwe gained independence in ...

Article

Robert Pernet

(b Liège, Belgium, Feb 7, 1907; d Wavre, Belgium, Feb 10, 1987). Belgian pianist . After working in cinemas and music halls he performed in Switzerland (1928) and France (1929). In 1930 he toured Algeria and worked in Paris, and from 1931 to 1934 he was pianist, organist, and arranger at a nightclub in Liège. Colignon then played with Fud Candrix’s orchestra, often as a principal soloist (1935–40), and led his own group in Brussels. After World War II he was in Antwerp, and later he held residencies in Brussels (1947–53) and Charleroi. Thereafter he worked in Germany, mainly as an organist. He made recordings as an unaccompanied soloist (1937–8), as a leader (1939, 1941–2), and as a sideman with Candrix (1937–40), Kutte Widmann and the clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Jack Lowens (both 1942), and René Compère (...

Article

Heather Laurel

Rock group formed in 1991 by the songwriter Dave (David John) Matthews (b Johannesburg, South Africa, 9 Jan 1967; guitar and vocals) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Matthews recruited Carter Beauford (b Charlottesville, 2 Nov 1957; drums and vocals), LeRoi Moore (b Durham, NC, 7 Sept 1961; d Charlottesville, 19 Aug 2008; saxophones), Steffan Lessard (b Anaheim, CA, 4 June 1974; bass), and Boyd Tinsley (b Charlottesville, 16 May 1964; violin and vocals). Cutting across stylistic backgrounds, including jazz and rock, the musicians formed an unconventional rock ensemble that drew a loyal local fan base. Its alternative instrumentation, emphasized by the lack of electric guitar, made the group a surprising candidate for the large-scale commercial success that followed. The band has spent much time on tour, incorporating long improvisatory jams into their concerts, which have been more representative of their sound than their studio recordings. From their earliest days, they have allowed fans to record their live shows, helping foster their wide following. Their first major-label release, ...

Article

Daniel Avorgbedor

(b Lagos). Nigerian reggae musician. After a series of television appearances in Nigeria in the early 1980s he began a solo career in 1987. Jah Stix was his first band and in 1988 his album Prisoner of Conscience made an international impact. Influences on Majek include musicians such as Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Jimi Hendrix; his late musical style (for example as shown in ...

Article

Atta Mensah

revised by Gregory F. Barz

A dance style that first appeared on the West African coast in the late 19th century. It has since developed into one of the most popular modern dance styles in the towns and cities that border the Gulf of Guinea. The term comes from the association of the style with ‘high society’ (party-going etc.).

The origins of highlife lie in the introduction in the 19th century of European military band instruments to the coastal forts of Ghana which had been built to protect European trading interests. By 1830 there was an African band at Cape Coast Castle which played English tunes by ear. Local bands modelled on those of the British forces sprang up at Elmina, 13 km from Cape Coast, among them the Lion Soldiers’ Band and the Edu Magicians’ Band. They were predominantly brass bands which played popular pieces of the period in a style that foreshadowed that of highlife. The band instruments were often bought for them by local merchants who acted as their sponsors, but freed slaves, stowaways and stevedores who returned to the area introduced smaller instruments such as concertinas, bandoneons, guitars and fifes. Other early influences included church hymnody, sea shanties of sailors and piano music (Collins, ...

Article

Jùjú  

Christopher A. Waterman

African popular music genre performed by the Yoruba of south-west Nigeria. Jùjú music combines indigenous praise-singing and proverbs, the flowing rhythms of social dance drumming and the traditional rhetorical role of the Yoruba talking drum with a variety of foreign influences, including electric guitars and synthesizers, African American soul music, country and western music and themes from Indian film music. Jùjú is performed in a variety of social contexts, including urban nightclubs and life-cycle celebrations such as naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

Jùjú music emerged during the early 1930s in the colonial capital of Lagos. The typical ensemble during this early period was a trio consisting of a leader who sang and played the banjo, a shekere bottle-gourd rattle player and a jùjú (tambourine) drummer. The melodic and harmonic materials of early jùjú were influenced by Yoruba folksongs, Christian hymns and contemporaneous urban genres such as palm wine guitar and ...

Article

Stephanie Conn

[Warsame, Keinan Abdi ]

(b Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb 1, 1978). Somali-Canadian hip hop artist, singer, and songwriter. K’naan (“traveler”) was born in the midst of Somalia’s civil war. His grandfather Haji Mohamed was a famous poet, and his aunt Magool a well-known singer. As a child he became interested in rap recordings sent from the United States by his father. In 1991 he left as a refugee with his mother and sister, moving to New York and then Toronto. By 1993 he had learned English, left school, and was performing professionally. In 2001 he sang at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. His full-length debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005), won a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. In 2005, he performed at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Canada. His second album, Troubadour...

Article

KLF  

Ian Peel

[Kopyright Liberation Front]

British contemporary club dance music duo, comprising Bill Drummond (William Butterworth; b South Africa, 29 April 1953) and Jimmy Cauty (b 1954). Drummond was an influential part of the Liverpool music scene in the 1980s, managing Julian Cope and playing in Big in Japan; Cauty formed Brilliant in the early 1980s, an attempt to fuse rock and dance styles. They first worked together under a variety of pseudonyms including Disco 2000, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (JAMMS), the Timelords (with a novelty hit single Doctorin' The Tardis, 1988) and Space. Space released an eponymous classic early ambient house album (1991), a spin-off from Cauty's work at the time with the Orb.

The first JAMMS album, 1987 What the Fuck is Going On? (KLF Communications, 1987), mixed early big beat with ranting vocals but was withdrawn from release over illegal samples. Cauty and Drummond reportedly burnt all but three copies of ...

Article

(b Abeokuta, Nigeria Oct 15, 1938; d Lagos, Aug 2, 1997). Nigerian pop musician. He formed his first band, Koola Lobitos, in London while a student at Trinity College of Music (1958–63) where he studied the trumpet, music theory and composition. After returning to Nigeria (1963) he reorganized the band as Nigeria '70; the name was changed after a trip to the USA (1969) to Afrika '70, and finally to Egypt '80. From 1964 to 1979 the band was led by the drummer Tony Oladipo Allen. Formative musical influences on Fela Kuti include his indigenous Yoruba musical culture, classical training, exposure to jazz during his weekly radio programmes at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, black American music (James Brown, John Coltrane, Miles Davis), literary works (The Autobiography of Malcom X) and political activists encountered during his trips to the USA. He proclaimed himself a disciple of the late pan-Africanist and president of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah....

Article

Kwela  

Gerhard Kubik

Isizulu term for an urban musical genre popular in southern Africa during the 1950s and early 60s. According to South African musicologist Elkin Sithole, use of the term in music first occurred during the 1940s in connection with a new Zulu vocal music known as the ‘bombing style’ (Kubik, 1974, p.13; Rycroft, 1957, p.33). When the leader wanted the chorus to respond, he shouted ‘kwela’! ‘Kwela-kwela’ expressed the continuous responses of the chorus.

Kwela became associated with bands of flute-playing youths in South African townships in the 1950s. Under the influence of jazz records and cinema in the 1940s featuring North American big band jazz by Count Basie, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway and others, the ambition of young boys was to emulate swing jazz with the means accessible to them. The reed and brass sections of the North American bands were represented by metal, end-blown flutes, locally called ‘pennywhistles’, and a new playing technique developed. The double bass was represented by a one-string skiffle bass made from a tea chest (see Benseler, ...

Article

Article

Lara Allen

Term used to describe two developments in black South African urban popular music.

(1) During the 1940s South African big bands started performing local melodies in swing style, evolving a style that became known as mbaqanga or African jazz.

(2) In the early 1960s a second style called mbaqanga evolved from 1950s pennywhistle kwela and sax jive, a transition best exemplified by the Hollywood Jazz Band. It was the first South African style to be fundamentally created in the recording studio for a mass media audience rather than for live performance and came to dominate popular music in South African townships during the 1960s and 70s. Like that of its antecedents, the harmonic base of mbaqanga is the cyclical repetition of four primary chords. Short melodies, usually the length of the harmonic cycle, are repeated and alternated with slight variations, and call-and-response generally occurs between solo and chorus parts. The characteristics that differentiate ...

Article

Gregory F. Barz

Form of West African guitar band Highlife music from Sierra Leone. Palm wine music (known in Sierra Leone as maringa) takes its name from the alcoholic beverage made from fermented palm sap served in coastal bars, a fairly cheap alternative to bottled beer. Palm wine was first made famous by Ebenezer Calender and his Maringar Band, who were known for their calypso-influenced style that drew heavily on the music of freed Caribbean slaves who had returned to Sierra Leone. Calender recorded extensively in the 1950s and 1960s, singing in the Krio language. The Kru-speaking sailors of Liberia who traded all along the west coast of Africa were accomplished guitarists, and their music may have influenced both Trinidadian calypso and Freetown maringa (Ashcroft and Trillo, 634). S.E. Rogie (d 1994) helped to popularize a form of palm wine internationally, and bands of expatriate musicians in London continued to maintain the palm wine music tradition....

Article

Bill Dobbins

(Ward Martin Tabares)

(b Norwalk, CT, Sept 2, 1928; d New Rochelle, NY, June 18, 2014). American jazz pianist, bandleader and composer. As a child he was exposed to Cape Verdean folk music performed by his father, who was of Portuguese descent. He began studying the saxophone and the piano in high school, when his influences were blues singers such as Memphis Slim and boogie-woogie and bop pianists, especially Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. In 1950 Stan Getz made a guest appearance in Hartford, Connecticut, with Silver’s trio, and subsequently engaged the group to tour regularly with him. Silver remained with Getz for a year, during which time three of his compositions, Penny, Potter’s Luck (written for Tommy Potter) and Split Kick, were recorded by the band for the Roost label.

By 1951 Silver had developed sufficient confidence to move to New York, where he performed with such established professionals as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Oscar Pettiford and Art Blakey. In ...