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Vintage 'Africa' (pt. 3): Pan African Songs

What's the message in pan-African songs from the twentieth century? Songs from Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. Part 4 of 4.


The third installment of our Vintage 'Africa' series features songs from across the diaspora that unite. These songs speak for themselves- given their lasting effect and recognition as some of the best tunes from the best artists in the black diaspora. Find below a selection from the beautiful Miriam Makeba, her former husband Hugh Masekela, Rasta and reggae legend Bob Marley, and the original Afrobeat connoisseur Fela Kuti.

What do these songs have in common? They're all centered around ideas of Pan Africanism and blackness. These ballads are not about specific countries- rather they rest on the hope and ideal of 'Africa.' As Fela roars in Yoruba "I am black and proud," Makeba croons "the black man's demanding his own piece of ground." However, while these tunes are amazing, similar to notions of pan-Africanism, we can't go without noticing how each of these songs focus on Africa in terms of the "black man." Just a thought.

1. "A Piece of Ground"

Miriam Makeba

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2. "Stimela (Coal Train)"

Hugh Masekela

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3. "Africa Unite"

Bob Marley

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4. "Black Man's Cry"

Fela Kuti

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So far in this series, we've shown you different pieces of work that all engage with the idea of 'Africa' explicitly; this is all to suggest that the way art work discussed 'Africa' in the twentieth century could not be disentangled from blackness, pan-Africanism, colonialism and diaspora. When we look at African music, film, and art today it's clear that we're in some sort of transitional phase. We know everyone is skeptical of  the word post (rightfully so) but playing devil's advocate, we're gonna suggest that we're entering a new era that is in some ways post-'Africa.' ...perhaps.

Read Vintage ‘Africa’ Part I: Representations of the Motherland and Otherlands here.

Read Vintage 'Africa' Part II: Postcolonial African Films here.

Stay tuned for Part IV: Nigerian Pulp Fiction

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Photo: Courtesy of Saphir Niakadie

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