Africa – A Few Favorites – 2013

Africa – new records

Ben Zabo – Ben Zabo
Abdullah Ibrahim – Mukashi Once Upon a Time

Mokoomba – Rising Tide
va – Red Hot + Fela (iTunes)
Bombino – Nomad
Owiny Sigoma Band – Power Punch

Africa – Reissues

va – Angola Soundtrack 2 Hypnosis, Distorsions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969 -1978

William Onyeabor – World Psychedelic Classics Vol. 5 Who is William Onyeabor
Sathima Bea Benjamin – African Songbird
Le Grand Kalle – His Life, His Music
Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo De Cotonous – The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk 1969-1980 Vol. 3

comment, new records: It was a very good year for new music from Africa, a year that pops out because Ben Zabo and Makoomba and Owiny Sigoma Band front for about a dozen releases that provided similar jaw-dropping listening experiences. Ben Zabo gets the nod to share the top spot because of the heavy dose of afrobeat he brings to his Malian vibe. Zabo provided this year’s ‘Zani Daibate’ moment. Not only because he’s a friend and my favorite musician does Dr. Ibrahim top my estimation. He makes elegiac records and Mukashi was released the year his beloved wife Sathima suddenly passed away. But, there’s more: turning eighty this year, Ibrahim seems to me to be working at a high level of spiritual intention with Mukashi–so the fine date featuring flute, clarinet and two cellos struck me as exceptional even by the artist’s high standards.

comment, reissues: The flood of house shaking classic African music continues apace. Angola Soundtrack 2 Angola Soundtrack 2 Hypnosis, Distorsions & Other Sonic Innovations was crazy-good, and number one for me, and it possessed the best title too! The most important record date of the late Sathima Bea Benjamin, the greatest jazz singer Africa has produced so far, came back into the light. Known qualities flesh out the top of my list, yet I could have thrown darts at the best of the rest to decide.

Freshly Ground (South Africa)

Freshly Ground ‘Nomvula ‘ live on eXpresso

Freshly Ground – Doo Be Doo

Freshly Ground [Facebook]

Freshlyground is a South African Afro-fusion band that formed in Cape Town in 2002. The band members variously hail from South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Freshlyground‘s musical style blends elements of traditional South African music (such askwela and African folk music), blues, jazz, and features of indie rock. (Wikipedia)

…a huge group in South Africa. Terrific musical personality captured in videos on youtube.

Mariem Hassan – SHOUKA (The Thorn)

Mariem Hassan – SHOUKA (The Thorn) from Manuel Dominguez on Vimeo.

Mariem Hassan One of the world’s greatest singers. period.

Mariem Hassan (Arabic: ???? ????, born 1958), is a Sahrawi singer and lyricist from Western Sahara. She sings usually in Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect spoken mostly in Western Sahara and Mauritania, and occasionally in Spanish. (Wikipedia)

Diggin’ In Africa


Poster for screening of the movie Take Me Away Fast. It’s about digging for vinyl in Africa. As far as I can tell, the screening in October 2011 reflects a finished film, but, I it’s not being circulated as far as I can tell. I encountered the trailer at the stellar blog Africa Is a Country. The music search there turns up riches in music and commentary about music.

Take Me Away Fast Documentary Trailer from Leigh Iacobucci on Vimeo.

I have a bunch of African vinyl from African record labels, including 12″ ‘disco’ format discs from the eighties.

It’s possible to revisit that golden era of African music courtesy of current curators working their youtube channels.

For example, RadioAfrica1 channel offers gem after gem.

Sathima, Peace Be With You


Having noted at the essential South African music blog, Electric Jive, a series of entries in July about Sathima Bea Benjamin, I was preparing a blog post to highlight wonderful resources brought forth at this fine group blog.

After Electricjive featured her to help highlight series of concerts celebrating her artistry presented in Cape Town in July, this was to be the hook for a post here.

Sathima Bea Benjamin

Now, sadly, Sathima Bea Benjamin has passed on, flown away away really, and, my purpose is now is to urge my readers to check her music out. Her human spirit is large, humane, and so was her lifetime of song-making.

Cape Town Celebrates Sathima Bea Benjamin (August 5th)

Her set at Tagores Jazz Bar was recorded:


Sathima Bea Benjamin web site

Trailer for the limited release documentary, Sathima’s Windsong


Archivist and scholar of South African music Matsuli (Matthew Temple) has issued on Bandcamp (and through iTunes,) the very rare al-Shams recording of Sathima, African Songbird. From 1976, the record obviously is one of the now-found cornerstones of the revolutionary artistic response to apartheid. 

A real treat:

Obituary at AllAfrica

Concert notice at

Sathima MAy 2013
May 2013

From a terrific article published in 2006.

Along with the legend of Buddy Bolden, the invisibility of Sathima Bea Benjamin will go down in jazz history as one of the great mysteries of this music. Benjamin, the mother of indie hip-hopper Jean Grae, stands among the greatest musical storytellers to ever hold a mic. She delivers lyrics with such emotion and patient phrasing that she will keep you hanging on to every word, and those words will linger for days, even weeks. And she exudes a kind of romantic innocence, not the kind of romance produced by pain, loss, and experience, but the “first love” variety, the dreaming love we associate with the young. She doesn’t sing the blues; she renders every love song like a first kiss.

Benjamin can create emotional truth and innocence in part because she doesn’t rely on vocal acrobatics or melisma–just pure, crystalline sound. And like Abbey Lincoln and Cassandra Wilson, she has her own unique tone. She has been performing and recording for the past four decades, always to enthusiastic reviews. In fact, she has been “rediscovered” at least three or four times in her career, and each rediscovery generates a flurry of excitement until some gigantic commercial label finds a new, young, sexy thing who can give the people what market researchers say they want. Robin D.G. Kelly, Jazztimes, Sathima Bea Benjamin: The Echo Returns

My hope is that grown up music lovers or anybody with a musically sensitive soul, if you haven’t ever heard her music, leap from this page to your newest exploration. Sathima did not make anything but stellar recordings, and each is a very direct and profound transmission. Starting point? (1) Song Spirit, #2 Musical Echoes iTunes

Sathima Bea Benjamin

The Desert Blues In Touareg Country

Because access to music is easy in our networked world, when music from far-flung corners trends, it’s also easy to delve into it without any concern for its context. There are ways to both superficially and deeply characterize the appeal of the sound of cultures here-to-for foreign to us. At the surface these musics are exotic, different, danceable, funky. More deeply, because this diffusion works in the other direction too, such musics are syncretic, can contain hooks familiar to us, and, in certain respects, can replicate the ‘sociality’ of music–although without the western listener knowing anything about the context of sociality at the source. So, we well comprehend that this exotic music is communicative, one can move to it, and, that even a strict language barrier doesn’t prevent our interest and enjoyment.

Toubab Krewe