Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

The Grace Space: Music From Around the World: Africa

    If you know me, you know I love music. One other fun fact about my love for this art form is that I don’t strictly love music from one nation or area. I can bounce all around, not only depending on genre, but on country as well.

    For this column, I will be focusing on introducing you to some of my favorite bands and performers from the continent of Africa, an area of immense talent that often goes unrecognized in how fantastic its musical artists are. I have not been introduced to a lot of African music until the recent months, but I hope that the musicians whom I have found for you all will cause you to go search for even more talent from the continent of 1 billion people and 54 countries. So here we go!

    DIE ANTWOORD, South Africa
    If you met me before I discovered this talented South African band back in 2009, I am sorry that I have not thrust their fantastic rap-rave at your ears. The group is comprised of vocalists Ninja (who has some pretty fantastic tattoos) and Yolandi Vi$$er (who sounds like a child you want to babysit), as well as producer DJ Hi-Tek (who owns a PC computer). The first time I watched their quasi-documentary video “Zef Side” on YouTube, I thought the band was a joke, and treated them as such for a few months. But, I have got to admit that these two have talent, regardless of whether they’re trying to joke around or not; just check out “Baby’s On Fire” or “Fatty Boom Boom” to really get the feel of why I love them, and am attempting to learn Afrikaans.

    FELA KUTI, Nigeria

    Although Kuti passed away in 1997, his influence in the music world will forever be present in Nigeria and Africa overall. Kuti started his career in 1958 in London, where he had been sent to study medicine, but instead to focus on music at the Trinity College of Music. Five years later, Kuti returned to his home country, where he trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and then began to make Afrobeat in Ghana. For the next 40 years, Kuti sang and performed music regarding politics and the hardships in Africa, providing listeners with classics such as “Zombie” and “Coffin for Head of State (Part 2).” While his moral values may have been questionable (he is known to have had 27 wives at one point in his life), Kuti will remain an influence on African music for generations.


    While not a big name in the U.S., Kidjo has been described as “the undisputed queen of African music” by The Daily Telegraph, and “Africa’s greatest living diva” by NPR. Kidjo, who has been active in the music scene since 1982, sings in four languages when she performs around the world. The 53 year-old now resides in New York, but, in songs such as “Agolo,” “Afirika,” and “Batonga,” her audiences are able to see how much of an influence her home country of Benin and her home continent provide for her music.

    RAS NAS, Tanzania

    While I was only recently introduced to Ras Nas, I have to say that he’s amazing, and I don’t know what I’ve been doing in my life up to the point where I first heard “War on Terror.” The man also known as Nasibu Mwanukuzi is known as both a musician and a poet, and he definitely succeeds in combining these two mediums to provide his audience with a beautiful revelation. Ras Nas formerly worked as a journalist after graduating from the University of Dar es Salaam with an LLB degree in 1984, and uses his past coverage of cultural issues to provide his lyricism with more fervor than is usually seen in music today. I recommend checking out more by the musician/poet, who has been writing African poetry since he was 17 years old, by listening to his hits “Dar-es-Salaam” and “Dance Rhumba.”

    NNEKA, Nigeria

    If you don’t like Nneka, don’t speak to me—she has such immense talent, it’s literally impossible to not like her. The 32-year old has been active in the musical world since 2003, after graduating from the University of Hamburg in Germany with a degree in Anthropology. Nneka, who now divides her time between her home country and Germany, uses a variety of different genres in her music, ranging from soul and R&B to Afrobeat and reggae. One of my favorite songs of the talented singer is “Suffri,” which I first found through Seattle’s own KEXP in-studio videos online. Other than listening to this masterpiece, I recommend also checking out “Kangpe” and “My Home.” She may sing in both Igbo, one of Nigeria’s national languages, and English, but trust me, the beauty will surpass whether you actually understand the lyrics.

    Hopefully you all found some new and exciting music to brighten your days/life—next month, we’ll delve into even more out-of-this-world musicians, so hold onto your hats until then!

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    Grace Stetson, Author

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