Events

Recap: United Sounds Of Africa


One often loses themselves in the vastness of Nigerian music. The dialects, the Pidgin, and the culture can be a bit overwhelming for non-Nigerians and some Nigerians alike. Perhaps the best way to venture into this new globally-embraced aesthetic is to sample of some of their best, or just most popular, music. The United Sounds of Africa (USA) tour was that opportunity to test out the flavors of the Afro Beat, Pop, and Hip Hop sounds of Nigeria.

The USA tour hit New York’s Irving Plaza on August 7, 2012 and was a great look into what so many Nigerians have invested so much pride in, and why they dominate in the African music movement at the moment. Despite some disorganization and a half-baked attempt to rival mainstream American hip hop's misogyny (two women were brought on stage and acted provacatively during Ice Prince’s set), the show pretty much delivered.

The variety of music from Afrobeat, to Afro Soul, to a strong influence of traditional African instruments encompassed by the opening acts was refreshing. The big names of the night, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, and of course Tuface (2Face), also delivered. Jesse Jagz’s incredible, raw energy married with this well-blended African and House-heavy production was a salty sweet treat. Ice Prince followed with a more polished, crowd interactive experience, shelling out the hits so many of his audience have sweated to in various African parties around the world.

Tuface, however, took the night. His live band, numerous hits, energy and sincerity came together to make a world class performance regardless of the thinning crowd that remained by the time he hit the stage so late into the night.

Above all, the evening was a wonderful excuse to network with like-minded young African people. Between each set, what could have been an annoyingly long break actually turned into that awesome moment when you realize the guy next to you is also a writer, designer, musician, or your next boyfriend. These types of events are the future of Afropolitan art, culture and community.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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