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It's Nearly Africa

Right off the bat, I'm going to claim ignorance. However, said ignorance will have to be blamed on my age--not at this present time, but when I was a young lad. Growing up in the sheltered San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles, my only reference to Africa (the theme of this week's World Music Show 3/23), well before digging deeper into Geography classes, was the Warner Bros. cartoons of Bugs Bunny. I had no idea that the continent was made up of many different countries and cultures. 

So, what does this admission have to do with this week's World Music Show? Well, to refer back to Bugs, at the time Africa seemed to be one big jungle--not vibrant cities and countries filled with wonderful people and music (luckily, this blog isn't a sociological discussion of cartoon influences). Now that I'm an educated adult and host of this program dedicated to sounds from around the world, I know differently. 

Which brings me to the theme of this week's show: Africa. On this week's show, we'll explore the regions of Africa through sound. However, we won't be following a map or a compass, but instead, we'll be following the rhythm of sound. We'll start off in South Africa and in fact, we'll spend a good chunk of time here. First up, we'll hear from Nibs van der Spuy, whose influences range from the British and Celtic genres to a variety of African genres. The Birmingham Post in the UK once said "if you like a bit of Nick Drake or Richard Thompson, with a little bit of Graceland...you will be pleasantly surprised."

After Spuy, we'll hear the singer Phinda, who is recognized as one her country's most talented vocalists. Back in 2005, her release of the album "Phesheya" earned her a South African Music Award. She's often compared to the legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba. In this same set of tunes, we'll also hear some Soweto Street music, which features the distinctive guitar sounds of that country, from the artists Philip Encobo and Amentkenthane. To end this set of music, we'll hear a moving song from the long-running band Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Another highlight of this chunk of South Africa music will be a couple of songs by Johnny Clegg & Savuka. Clegg needs to get some musical and courageous kudos. During the Apartheid era, he proudly had an integrated band--something which was against the law. Plus, his songs spoke of unity and freedom. Partnered in this set of music will be some other great, guitar-driven tunes by Dilika and Elias Mathebula & the Chivani Sisters.

To round out the first hour, we'll hear some other great voices and musicians from Africa, specifically from Mali (with one sidestep). We'll hear tracks from guitarist Ali Farka Toure and Kora player Toumani Diabate off one of their first pairings together, as well from Issa Bagayogo, who plays the Kamele n' Goni. Plus, for the sidestep I mentioned, we'll pop over to Dakar to hear from Orchestra Baobab, who were once the house band of the hotel Baobab (hence the name). and we'll end with the Golden voice of Mali, otherwise known as Salif Keita. Keita is descended from royalty and was highly discouraged from going into music, but luckily for us, he pursued his dream. 

For hour two this week, we'll keep the African theme going and start off with the band Konono Nº1. They are a Grammy-nominated musical group from Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They combine three electric likembé (a traditional instrument similar to the mbira) with voices, dancers, and percussion instruments that are made out of items salvaged from a junkyard. The group's amplification equipment is equally rudimentary, including a microphone carved out of wood fitted with a magnet from an automobile alternator and a gigantic horn-shaped amplifier. The group achieved international renown beginning in 2005, with its DIY aesthetic appealing to many fans of rock and electronic music. Think of them as your local garage band gone global. 

In that first set, we'll also hear from another member of a royal family--this time, it'll be from Nigeria's King Sunny Ade. Ade was born in to a Nigerian royal family in Ondo, thus making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people. His father was a church organist, while his mother was a trader. Adé left grammar school in Ondo under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. There, in Lagos, his mercurial musical career started. We'll hear a track off his most famous, global-selling CD "Juju Music." Also in this set will be music from Kinobe & Soul Beat Africa and some danceable music from Gueatan System

One other major callout and a "not to miss" sound will be some Senegelese rap music from the trio known as Daara J, as well some guitar music from Vieux Farka Toure (son of Ali) and some classic funk/afrobeat music from Nigeria, circa 1970. 

So, I think my initial vision of Africa has expanded a bit, right? After hearing this week's show, perhaps whatever vision of Africa you have, will be expanded just a bit, too. The World Music Show airs Saturday nights on WCVE Public Radio, 88.9FM or online via this site. You can follow the show on Twitter, @wcveworldmusic. Let me know your thoughts below.