These are the Legendary songs that made history and were done by non-African musicians, to celebrate our great continent. If you listen to music on the radio, streams it on Spotify or Apple Music, you would have experienced the influence and impact of African music. Music from around the globe, such as samba, salsa, rhumba, gospel, hip-hop, reggae and R&B music all have a common ancestor — African music, which is where it all began.
The world, especially America, owes much, if not all, of its musical innovation to African Americans. Without the musical contributions of African Americans, we wouldn’t have most of the popular music styles we know today. Everything from rock to hip-hop to bluegrass has been influenced by traditional African music styles and the music created by African slaves in America.
Africa boasts a rich, varied landscape of musical styles that transcends borders. Some, like Nigerian fuji and Ghanaian high-life, which melded with other influences to create the popular Afrobeat genre, boast complex intersecting rhythms and percussion that can be heard in funk and jazz as well.
Miles Davis – Nefertiti
This was one of many early jazz artists who showed a concerted desire to connect with Africa through his compositions. “Nefertiti” is one of his more obvious homages, but many of his later, more experimental songs contained rhythmic, African sounds. The 1968 record, named after that famous Egyptian queen, features haunting horn riffs and features Herbie Hancock on the keys.
Michael Jackson – Liberian Girl
On the aptly titled song, Michael Jackson finds himself singing to a Liberian woman whom he’s fallen deeply in love with. The song was released in 1989, the same year as the on-set of the First Liberian Civil War, most of the women in the country found the song very empowering. The iconic ancient Egyptian-themed music video for “Remember the Time” is also undoubtedly worth a mention.
Grady Harell – Belinda
This song singlehandedly added the name “Belinda” to the consciousness of every West African. Today, if you hear “Belinda, you give me ginger” on a Nigerian song, you can thank this song! But did he sound and dance like Michael Jackson or was more of a Sam Cooke?
Toto – Africa
From the USA and the son is found in the album ‘Toto IV’, it was released in 1982 under the Classic Rock genre.
Novalima – Africa Landó
On “Africa Landó” notable Afro-Peruivian band, Novalima tell the story of an African slave brought to South America by Spaniards. The song details the struggles that the young girl faces and forces listeners to reflect on the often-overlooked history of slavery in Latin America and its lingering effects on Afro-Latino populations.
Paul Simon – Under African Skies
This USA produced evergreen pop rock album titled ‘Graceland’ was released in 1987 by Paul Simon, after his sojourn in Africa, working with top acts like Mariam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and others.
Shakira ft. Freshlyground – Waka Waka (This time for Africa)
Our own Shakira from Colombia did a tribute song for the 2010 World Cup hosted in South Africa, she sampled the Cameroonian dance group in this pop rendition.
Latin Quarter – Radio Africa
The little-known British band Latin Quarter reached chart success with its 1985 single, “Radio Africa.” The somewhat light tone of the melody does not hide the political nature of the song that talks about “hearing only bad news from Radio Africa,” as the band goes on to mention a variety of conflicts from the continent, ranging from war to famine, to oppression by Robert Mugabe to foreign investment and colonization.
Carmen Twillie, Lebo M – Circle Of Life (Lion King)
From the 1994 soundtrack album of The Lion King movie comes this song titled ‘Circle of Life’
Band Aid – Do They Know Its Christmas
Generally known as one of the most condescending songs of all time, Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was a collaborative effort in 1984 to raise awareness and funds for the famine in Ethiopia at the time.