The African continent is home to many incredible musicians rife with talent, but it’s not often that these musicians defy the odds and become well-known on the global stage. With passion, integrity, and persistence, these African artists have travelled the world, bringing with them the magic of African music.
1. Youssou N’dour
Born in Senegal, Youssou N’dour has popularised the Mbalax genre of music and in 2004 was referred to by Rolling Stone Magazine as perhaps the most famous singer alive. Not only is N’dour a Grammy-Award winning musician, but also a UNICEF ambassador, businessman, and record label owner.
2. Salif Keita
Born in Mali, not only is Salif Keita a descendent of the founding father of Mali, Sunditata Keita, but he is also one of the founders of Afro-pop. Keita has endured much criticism for his decision to become a musician as this was seen as a profession not suited to someone from a royal family, but he endured nonetheless.
3. Angélique Kidjo
Born in Benin, Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award winning recording artist and one of Africa’s most influential singers to date. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and founder of the Washington-based Batonga Foundation which funds the education of African girls, Kidjo is an outspoken activist for the rights of women in Africa.
Born Khaled Hadj Ibrahim in Algeria, Khaled is a singer-songwriter and the most popular singer of the ‘rai’ genre of music in the world. Much like the international origins of bingo for money, Rai is a type of folk music which blends French, Arabic, Spanish, and African musical influences and Khaled has had major success with his singles ‘Didi’ and ‘Aicha’.
5. Manu Dibango
Most well-known for his 1972 hit single ‘Soul Makossa’, Cameroon-born Manu Dibango is a saxophonist and plays reggae, soul, blues, electro, and spiritual music. As one of Africa’s most well-known multi-talented artists, his contribution to the African music industry has been immeasurable.
6. Femi Kuti
First born son of the famous Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti has followed in his father’s footsteps and has used music to fight against the socio-economic failings which mar Nigeria and Africa as a whole, such as poverty and corruption.
7. Yvonne Chaka Chaka
South African Yvonne Chaka Chaka made her first appearance on stage at the age of 18 and skyrocketed to fame in the midst of Apartheid South Africa. With contagious pop melodies and an angelic voice, Chaka Chaka is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN and dedicates much of her time to philanthropy.
8. Koffi Olomidé
Famously recognised as a performer of the ‘soukous’ genre of African music, Congolese musician Koffi Olomidé has released more than 30 albums during the course of his career which have sold millions of copies worldwide.
9. Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned South African trumpeter and Jazz aficionado who has used his music to fight Apartheid, modern-day slavery, and socio-economic exploitation. He started playing the trumpet at the age of 14 and published his autobiography, ‘Still Grazing’, in 2004.