All lovers of Afropop should recognize the percussion elements of Nigerian jùjú and the grooves of Congolese ndombolo in electronic and pop music across Europe, North America, and parts of Asia. Even characteristics culled from African sacred music, like the expert beating of drums, call and response vocalization, and the meticulous layering of rhythms make people instantly recognize African musical elements in styles from all over the world, from gospel to techno.

African musical influence spans beyond borders and traditional African music. It’s been shaping music around the world for centuries. It began with the dispersion of millions of Africans around the world during the slave trade. It continued through the 20th and 21st centuries as people traveled to and from Africa. Now today, as the world gets smaller with the internet and more listeners get exposed to new African artists, the evolution continues. Without Africa and the African diaspora, music across the globe wouldn’t be what it is today.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Africa Unite

Jamaican born reggae artist from his 1979 ‘Survival’ album had a dedicated track about Africa and unity. 

Peter Gabriel – Biko

British rock musician Peter Gabriel released “Biko” in 1980 as a protest against the arrest and subsequent killing of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Marrakesh Express

Graham Nash is said to have written “Marrakesh Express” following his trip through Morocco, in which he traveled by train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. Nash sings about the trip, with “Ducks and pigs and chickens call, animal carpet wall to wall,” and “Colored cottons hang in the air, charming cobras in the square, striped djellabas we can wear at home.” He had initially written the song while a member of his band, The Hollies, but it was rejected. It found new life with Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1969.

Akon Ft. Keri Hilson – Oh Africa
From his 2010 ‘Oh Africa’ album Akon featured Keri Hilson in the song of same title.

The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Done in 1961, I always thought the high notes was some kind of instrument, but it was the voice of Anita Darian (April 26, 1927 – February 1, 2015) an American singer and actress who had an extensive career from the 1950s to the 2010s.

This jazz number has been featured in more than 15 films and musical, covered by more than 150 artistes.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” was originally called “Mbube,” as written by a South African janitor in the 1920s. Solomon Popoli Linda, also known as Solomon Ntsele, was a South African musician, singer and composer best known as the composer of the song “Mbube”. He was born in 1909 and recorded the track with his group, ‘The Evening Bird’.

Pete Seeger explained that the song is folk lore about the ‘sleeping-king’ Shaka, Warrior King of the Zulus. Shaka the Lion, who heroically resisted the armies of the European colonizers, is supposed not to be dead but only sleeping and will one day awaken and return to lead his oppressed people to freedom.

The broke family of the original owner of the song had to go to court, before Disney agreed on a compensation as royalty for them.

USA for Africa – We Are the World

Following the success of “Do They Know it’s Christmas,” Michael Jackson was inspired to co-write “We Are the World” with Lionel Richie to raise further funds for African famine relief. The song was released on March 7, 1985, and boasted an even more impressive star-studded roster for the tune, with the likes of Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder contributing.

Lauryn Hill – To Zion
From the famous ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ album released in 1998 comes this Contemporary soul number titled ‘To Zion’

Yaki-Da – Pride Of Africa
The Swedish singer ‘Yaki-Da’ from the 1995 album ‘Pride’ has the pop single ‘Pride of Africa’.

Carlos Santana – Africa Bamba

The man with the Spanish guitar does with this track what he knows how to do best.

Salif Keita – Afrika
One of the few tracks I selected about Africa that was done by an African artist, for the obvious reason that it is such a great song about our mother land. Salif, from Mali released this African blues genre in 2009 in his ‘Folon the Past’ album.

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