Hipster music review site Pitchfork has just re-issued their 2005 article, “Introduction to Everything You Need to Know about African Music While Wearing Excruciatingly Tight Jeans.” The update includes new and emerging bands, an overview of African record labels and blogs, and the always necessary red, yellow, and green tri-colored map of Africa. According to Joe Tangari:
This article isn’t an attempt to tell the whole story of African music; it’s an account of the time I’ve spent exploring the popular sounds of 1960s and 70s Africa. It’s not the easiest music to fall deeply in love with, in part because it comes from a place most Westerners aren’t close to understanding, a continent obscured by our misconceptions, prejudices, and expectations of “world music.” The other difficulties are more practical: The most fertile period for African funk, soul, rock, and jazz lasted from 1965 to 1982, a time of great upheaval in Africa, and much of this music wasn’t recorded. Of that which was put to tape, if the masters still exist, they’re likely significantly degraded by decades of neglect.
This list definitely defies the expectations of Kenny Loggins infused World Music. The 12 most essential discs include classics such as Fela’s “Expensive Shit“, the Ethipiques complication “Swinging Addis” and the T.P Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Contonou anthology. The article covers a range of boutique record labels and provides a top 100 tracks of African music that is a great Saturday morning listen.
Noticeably absent from the top 100 tracks, however, is music from African countries starting with the letter M. There is nothing from Mozambique or Malawi, the former who continues to produce amazing urban folk music, Marrabenta, and the latter who has recently put out superstar rap-pop fusion bands like the Very Best. Music capital Mali only gets one song. Also surprising is the lack of Kenyan music. Any list without Benga or classics like Sina Makosa or Tabu Hey is just not that bangin’. It would also have been nice to see a bit more Congolese music, given the reach and influence of rumba.
Even with its Nigerian-Ghanaian emphasis, Tangari’s review is an excellent introduction to post-colonial African music, its presence on the web, and ways to use ‘state of mind’ to describe Afropop and most things African.