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Africa is a vast continent – the second largest in the world, after Asia – so it is inevitable it should be the subject of songs by artistes from around the world. Tagged the fastest growing continent, the size of the continent has not translated to supreme innovation and growth, though. But that’s by the way.
Much has been written about Africa – in prose, in poetry, in songs. In this post, we’re going to bring you some songs that tell stories about Africa. Some of the stories might provoke a smile, and others might provoke a grimace. What you have here is a mixed bag, really.
In no particular order, below are 10 songs that tell stories about Africa
1. Under African Skies by Paul Simon
“Under African Skies” by Paul Simon is a song of great emotional energy. Released in 1986, it is the fifth and final single in the America musician’s “Graceland” album. The original recording session for the song held in Johannesburg. But the recording was completed in New York, where Simon had flown several South African musicians.
Among those who contributed to the song are Linda Ronstadt (additional vocals), Ray Phiri and Adrian Belew (guitar), Bakithi Kumalo (bass), Isaac Mtshali (drums), Ralph MacDonald and James Guyatt (percussion).
2. Africa by Toto
Written by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, this soft rock tune details a man’s love for Africa as a continent. The song was recorded in 1981 but only released a year later, in 1982, as the tenth and final track on the American rock band’s fourth studio album, “Toto IV.”
The song peaked at No. 1 on the United States Billboard Hot 100, a milestone for Toto in that it remains their only No. 1 on the chart.
3. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira
Released in 2010 by the Colombian singer Shakira in collaboration with the South African band Freshlyground, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” was the theme song for the 2010 World Cup which was held in South Africa. The song was composed by Shakira in collaboration with John Hill.
4. Scatterlings of Africa by Johnny Clegg
Scatterlings of Africa is part of the album “Scatterlings” by the South African band Juluka, of which Johnny Clegg is a member. It was first released in 1982, but rereleased five years later, in 1987, by Savuka, the successor band. The song draws from Zulu dance influences.
5. African Dream by Vicky Sampson
“African Dream” is a song by the South African singer and performer Vicky Sampson. The songstress came from a musical background, her father being a member of a vaudeville group.
“Africa Dream” beautifully illuminates the good sides of Africa as a continent. It was incredibly popular in South Africa at the time of release and was used as the theme song for the 1996 African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Such was Vicky Sampson’s appeal at the time that she was co-opted to perform at the AFCON during the opening and closing ceremonies.
6. Africa is where my Heart Lies by Miriam Makeba
“Africa is where my Heart Lies” is a song by South Africa’s Miriam Makeba, who at the height of her fame was called Mama Africa. It was part of her “Homeland” album of 2000. In the song, the celebrated singer expressed her longing for and faith in Africa. Where many would see ashes, she sees beauty and is not ashamed to share this beauty with the world.
7. Diamonds From Sierra Leone by Kanye West
“Diamonds From Sierra Leone” was recorded in 2004, but released a year later, in 2005, by Kanye West. For this song, which was part of the American hip hop artiste’s second studio album, “Late Registration,” he had sampled Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds are Forever.”
The song interweaves the “Donda” rapper’s newly found fame and fortune with the civil war in the Sierra Leone, which was financed by illegal (“blood”) diamonds.
8. African Queen by 2Baba
“African Queen” is a song by the Nigerian musician Innocent Idibia (2Baba, formerly 2Face). The song appreciates the beauty of the African lady, described by the persona in the song as his “everything.”
The song was a big hit in Nigeria at the time of release. The song’s enormous success was probably what provoked a war of ownership between 2Baba and Blackface, his bandmate at the now defunct Plantashun Boiz. Blackface has been claiming the song is his, with 2Baba insisting his former friend is lying.
To this day, it is hard to mention the song without referencing the fissure it provoked in the relationship between the former friends and bandmates.
9. Africa Lando by Novalima
“Africa Lando” is a song by the Peruvian band Novalima. It was part of their third studio album, “Coba Coba,” released in 2009. “”Africa Lando” is track No.5 in that 12-track body of work.
In that body of work, the band had explored Afro-Peruvian music’s African roots. The titled song amplified those roots yet. You can check out the song below.
10. Sorrow, Tears and Blood by Fela
It is inevitable a song by Fela should make this list. It may hold the No. 10 position, but it is not exactly the least on the list. Far from it. Anyway, in his active days and prior to his death, Fela was described as the conscience of his generation and for good reason.
The malaise that has held Africa back formed the themes of his song. And unlike other musicians, he was never afraid to speak truth to power. For his audacity and activism, he had had several brushes with security forces in Nigeria. But he never gave up his advocacy until his death from AIDS.
“Sorrow, Tears and Blood” is a song from an album of the same title, recorded in 1977 by the afrobeat king. In the song, which might get you sorrowful and even angry, Fela deplores docility among Africans. Why would they just accept the garbage thrown at them by the ruling class when they should fight for the future they deserve?
Fela himself was a fighter and fought until his death.
Well, what do you think of the songs on our list? Share your thoughts below, if you please.