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African Music: 10 African Sounds Making Global Waves

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From the beats of Afrobeat to soulful South African Gospel, Africa has produced musical styles that have captured the hearts and ears of listeners worldwide.

Together, we will explore the absolute styles that have pushed Africa to the forefront of the global music scene, celebrating the remarkable artists who have elevated African music to new heights.

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1. Afrobeat 

Afrobeat, pioneered by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti in the 1960s and 1970s, has achieved significant international recognition and influence. The genre fuses African rhythms, jazz, funk, and soul, captivating global audiences. 

Fela used his music to address social and political issues, inspiring movements for change. Afrobeats impact extends through collaborations with international artists and festivals celebrating its vibrant sound. 

It has influenced contemporary music, with artists incorporating Afrobeat elements into their work. Afrobeat represents Africa’s cultural richness and challenges stereotypes. 

Its infectious rhythms, socially conscious lyrics, and energetic performances continue to resonate worldwide, bridging cultures and fostering understanding.

2. Soukous

Soukous, a vibrant music genre originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has gained international recognition and made a significant impact on the global music scene. It combines infectious rhythms, intricate guitar work, lively percussion, and melodic vocals. Soukous evolved from Congolese rumba and became a global phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s. 

It found enthusiastic audiences in Francophone African countries and Europe. Soukous influences artists worldwide, inspiring dance cultures and cross-cultural collaborations. Its legacy endures, with a new generation of African musicians incorporating its elements into their music, ensuring Soukous remains a vibrant force in global music.

3. Amapiano

Amapiano, a South African genre, has gained widespread recognition and popularity internationally. Its unique sound and infectious rhythms have captivated a global audience. Amapiano artists have collaborated with international musicians, and the genre has been featured at music festivals and events worldwide. 

The catchy beats and dance trends associated with Amapiano have spread across borders through social media. Record labels and streaming platforms have contributed to its accessibility and exposure. 

Amapiano DJs have toured internationally, and the genre has made appearances on international charts. Amapiano’s success has fostered cultural exchange and appreciation, showcasing its impact beyond South Africa and solidifying its presence in the global music scene.

4. Makossa

Makossa is a Cameroonian music genre that gained international recognition through artists like Manu Dibango. Its rhythmic and danceable sound propelled it to global success in the late 1970s. 

Makossa’s fusion with jazz, funk, and disco further expanded its appeal. The genre’s crossover collaborations, dance culture, and influence on international artists have solidified its place in the global music scene. 

Makossa’s distinct sound has been sampled and remade by renowned musicians, and its performances at international festivals have showcased its cultural richness. Makossa has become a symbol of Cameroonian identity and continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

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5. Benga 

Benga is a Kenyan music genre with an infectious and rhythmic sound that has gained international recognition. Originating among the Luo people, it has become popular in East Africa and beyond. 

Benga artists have collaborated with musicians worldwide, fusing the genre with jazz, funk, reggae, and Afrobeat. Benga’s live performances at international festivals have exposed it to diverse audiences, influencing world music and preserving East African cultural heritage. 

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Benga’s success has helped propel its artists to global acclaim and contribute to the genre’s growth and integration into the global music scene.

6. Highlife 

Highlife is a West African music genre that originated in Ghana and Nigeria, blending traditional African rhythms with Western influences. It gained international recognition in the 1940s and 1950s, becoming popular in countries like the UK and the US. 

Highlife influenced and was influenced by other genres, such as Afrobeat and palm wine music, and played a significant role in cultural exchange and collaboration. Its legacy can be seen in contemporary African music, and its infectious rhythms and uplifting melodies have left a lasting impact on the global music scene.

7. Coupé- décalé

Coupé-décalé is a lively music and dance genre that originated in Ivory Coast and has gained international recognition. Known for its energetic rhythms, catchy melodies, and vibrant dance moves, Coupé-décalé has become a symbol of African youth culture. 

It has influenced popular music, connected the African diaspora, and fostered a sense of identity and pride. Through the rise of influential artists, global performances, and its presence in digital spaces, Coupé-décalé continues to evolve and make an impact on the global music scene.

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8. Afro House 

Afro House is an internationally popular genre that blends African rhythms and sounds with elements of electronic house music. It has gained a global following, captivating audiences with its infectious beats and vibrant energy. 

Through its rhythmic grooves, Afro-House fosters cultural exchange and collaboration between artists from different backgrounds. The genre’s influence has extended beyond traditional boundaries, with international artists embracing and incorporating Afro-House elements into their music. 

It has inspired a dynamic dance culture, gained presence at festivals, and received airplay on radio stations and streaming platforms worldwide. Afro House’s future looks promising, as it continues to evolve and shape the future of electronic music while maintaining its roots in African traditions.

9. Mbalax

Mbalax is a vibrant music genre from Senegal that has achieved international recognition and influence. Spearheaded by Youssou N’Dour, Mbalax combines traditional Senegalese percussion with modern instruments, creating an infectious rhythm that captivates listeners worldwide. 

Through collaborations, live performances, and its influence on world music, Mbalax has made a significant impact on the global music scene. It serves as a cultural ambassador for Senegal, representing its traditions while embracing contemporary elements. 

Mbalax’s energetic beats and cultural significance have helped it find a place in the world music landscape, contributing to its enduring popularity and cross-cultural appeal.

10. African Hip-hop

African hip hop has made a significant impact on the international music scene, highlighting the talent and creativity of African artists. It fuses local and global sounds, creating a unique and diverse genre that resonates with both African and international audiences. 

African hip hop has produced global superstars, influenced global music trends, and served as a platform for social and political commentary. Festivals, online platforms, and regional diversity contribute to its growing presence. 

Overall, African hip hop showcases the cultural richness of Africa and provides a powerful voice for African artists on a global stage.

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Hello!, I am Unaswi, a passionate content writer/ developer. With a background of being a content developer, strategist and a copywriter, she holds the skills to be a team player and flexible in any given working situation. Unaswi is not only a writer, she is a dancer and an acting coach.


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