Photo: Nerea Coll

Why African Electronic Music Will Soundtrack This Summer's Club Floors

The rise of local industries, global connections and diaspora hubs helps explain why African sounds are bound to takeover the world's club music.

"Kalemba" is one of the most well-known electronic music tracks recorded by African artists in the 2000s. Released in 2008, the song, with its unforgettable "wegue wegue" chorus was a dance floor banger across Europe and the US, and made it to the 2010 FIFA video game soundtrack.

It was not surprising to see the Angolan-Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema performing it one year later at the Sónar, the Barcelona's festival which, today, is one of the most renowned electronic music events in the world. Buraka was the only African-related at the Sónar stages back then. So it was fairly surprising seeing the same "wegue wegue" track being performed last month at the very same festival.

On Sónar's 2022 main stage was Pongo, the original "Kalemba" singer. Not only she was delivering a good dose of nostalgia, but the 30-year-old artist was also dropping some of her new singles to the crowded, open-minded Sónar public. This time, Pongo was not alone. Ten artists deeply connected to African music were lined-up for this year's festival. There was a new message echoing around for 2022: African electronic music is the Western dance floor soundtrack for the next decade—and African artists are taking the lead.

"It's important seeing artists from Africa in festivals like this because music comes from Africa," says Pongo. "And since the very beginning, I see myself as an electronic music artist." After a successful breakthrough in the late 2000s, Pongo went solo in an industry that was interested in music beaming out of African dance floors. Among several trends holding a grasp in the US and Europe, Pongo's Kuduro was a good call on bets. But the following years showed it was a rocky road to the top. On both sides of the Atlantic, the superstar/celebrity DJ phenomena took over the charts with the EDM frenzy and the underground went way deeper into the auto referential digital culture.

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Photo: Axel Joseph.

5 African Acts to Check Out at Sónar 2022

The Barcelona-based festival returns with a fresh slate of African electronic music.

After a pandemic two-year hiatus, the Sónar music festival gets back to life in Barcelona. This is a unique year for the Catalan festival, which has stood for almost two decades as a spearhead in the electronic music landscape, whether in club music-oriented sounds or extreme breakbeat noise.

Not only is the festival making its comeback edition, but it also features a number of African artists and African-related performances that have never been seen before. From Pongo's neo-kuduro to the Nyege Nyege-signed genre-bending trio Scotch Rolex, MC Yallah and Lord Spikeheart, don't sleep on these five acts—they're just the tip of the iceberg of an African take on global dance floors.

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