The beat can be heard daily on Africa.com’s TOP 20 – a new weekly contest which asks Africa.com’s global audience to vote for their favorite songs and send us new picks. The results are posted every Monday by12am EDT.
I am thrilled that on-line disc jockey Chaka Ngwenya, born in Zimbabwe, and music journalist Prudence Chauke, born in South Africa, are bringing their knowledge of and passion for the music of Africa to Africa.com, the on-line portal to news as well as travel, investment and cultural information about all 53 countries on the continent.
Chaka spins the virtual tunes and Prudence explains the background and musical influences of each winner, providing some context for those unfamiliar with the music of Africa. Our goal is to give a taste of home to African ex-pats as well as to give North and South Americans, Europeans and Asians the chance to hear Africa’s heart beat just a little louder – or as Prudence says, “to elevate the way people view Mama Africa.”
Among musicians, particularly contemporary musicians, African sounds and rhythms have become familiar. During the 1980s, the styles and genres of the various African countries, such as South Africa‘s “mbaqanga”, Zimbabwe’s “jit”, Zaire’s “soukous”, Nigeria’s “juju” and Ghana’s “highlife”, had a chance to develop and proliferate around the world. But cross-pollination has taken place in both directions. While Western popular music adopted elements of African music, African music adopted the studio techniques of western music.
Now, everyone can experience Africa’s music. In our first week, Africa.com’s TOP 20 showcased greats like Salif Keita from Mali and Lucky Dube, a reggae musician from South Africa.
Yolela by Baaba Maal and Luciano was number one, but no surprise — listeners challenged DJ Chaka’s first choice and gave the new number one spot to Thandiswa Mazwai with “Nizalwa Ngobani (Do You Know Where You Come From?)”.
As you listen to Africa.com’s TOP 20, you’ll get to know Chaka. He began his career as a radio and television personality in Harare. In 2000, he immigrated to New York City’s Harlem and in 2005, he founded SARFMRadio, an American-based African internet radio station.
A writer and music editor, Prudence has interviewed artists such as Lebo Mashile, Nonhle Thema, Hip-Hop Pantsula, Jambo, Christine Vaindrilis, Riz (from Konvict label) and Iyadede, just to name a few.
As Prudence explained in her inaugural blog on Africa.com, the song listeners selected as this week’s number one is from Thandiswa Maswai’s 2005 debut album “ZABALAZA” and it layers a string of questions in an attempt to remind the faces of Africa where they come from. The mid-tempo tune is infused by Thandiswa’s soulful Xhosa (known as the “click” language) trademark singing occasionally accompanied by a hint of English . After shooting to fame as part of one of Southern Africa’s most legendary groups, Bongo Maffin, Thandiswa has proven to be an important and enduring performer in the South African music scene.
When I re-launched Africa.com one month ago, I wanted the new website to provide one-stop shopping for anyone interested in Africa. But I also want visitors to Africa.com to have fun and experience the cultures and dynamism of the people whom I’ve come to adore in South Africa and Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, indeed in every country on the continent.
Blogger Hugh Elliott has written: “You can call it the ‘Perfect Moment’ when the universe aligns and the music in your head actually matches the music outside and all is well.”
With your help, Africa.com will guarantee that there are “perfect moments” a-plenty.
About the author:
Teresa Clarke, chairman and CEO of Africa.com, was formerly a managing director with the global investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs. Under her guidance, Africa.com is providing encyclopedic information about each of the 53 countries on the continent as well as travel tips, maps, news, videos, investment information and arts updates.