Missing Africa? Dreaming about, preparing for, or going on a trip there? Here are 10 hit songs by international artists that have at their heart a love of Africa. Some you’ve definitely heard, others, you may have yet to experience. Some are political or patriotic, others are for pure fun. Here are 10 popular songs about loving Africa.
Sources: buffalosoldier.net, en.wikipedia.org, songfacts.com
Let’s just get this one out of the way, shall we? When you’re doing Thursday night karaoke and drinks with your co-workers and this song comes on, the groans and cheers are almost as melodic as Toto’s semi-cheesy synthesizer-driven tribute to the motherland. Recorded in 1982 on the album “Toto IV,” it made No. 1 on Billboard 100 in February 1983.
The wonderous, passionate Nigerian activist and musical icon Fela Kuti recorded “Viva Nigeria” in Los Angeles in 1969 while the Biafran War raged in his home country. One of his most outspoken pieces (literally, he speaks the entire time), it’s done in his typical afrobeat style, but uncharacteristically shorter. It retains its power today.
Yep, we love the ’80s. “Walk Like an Egyptian” is another karaoke hit, albeit one that locks onto a giant cultural cliche and puts it to a beat. Insensitivity? Naahh…your feet will start tapping immediately. When it was released in 1986, it was a runaway international hit, grabbing Billboard 100’s No. 1 spot in America, and No. 3 on the U.K. single chart. From the album “Different Light,” this song is so light that you probably won’t feel the historical weight of the Egyptian pharaohs long past. Do we don the Cleopatra wig or tease the bangs?
“Stolen from Africa/Brought to America/Fighting on arrival/Fighting for survival.” This song brings attention to the Transatlantic slave trade. The Buffalo Soldier in question is a black cavalryman for the U.S. Army who fought in the Indian Wars in the 1860s. It was the disenfranchised fighting the disenfranchised — a race swiped away from its homeland participating in wiping out other people from their homeland. Marley’s jaunty but thoughtful song is one for the ages, a hard history lesson with a reggae beat.
Although it had been around for decades, this hymn surfaced near the end of the 1980s in American churches and school choir performances. Originally from South Africa, its composition origins are contested. Andres van Todjer was named as the writer in 1950, although the South African Music Rights Organization said the song is in the public domain. It was arranged in four-part harmony in 1984 by Anders Nyberg for the recording of “Freedom is Coming: Songs of Protest and Praise from South Africa.” The original lyrics are in the Zulu language.
The new age wave of the ’80s and ’90s ushered in artists like Ireland’s Enya. Her 1988 hit album, “Watermark,” featured “Storms in Africa,” a rumbling, evocative and beautiful track that envisions thunder clouds rolling over a savanna. The first track is in Gaelic, but Enya rereleased it in English. It has been heard in commercials and films, including “Green Card.”
Hot Colombian sensation Shakira released this hit track in 2010, and it became the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Ubiquitous on the radio and in clubs and bars, it is still going strong. In March the video reached 680 million hits on Youtube,making it the eighth most-watched video in history.
British singer-songwriter Jerry Dammers and his band Special A.K.A. released this single in 1984. Apparently out of touch with the anti-apartheid movement, Dammers went to a benefit concert in 1983 and was subsequently inspired to write this song. He had no idea how successful it would be. It was widely played in Africa, and reached No. 9 on the U.K. singles chart. When Mandela died in 2013, the song resurfaced temporarily on the charts at No. 96.
Composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1897, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica” became a pan-African liberation anthem and was later adopted as the national anthem of five countries. It was the anthem used by the African National Congress during apartheid. It was also popular in Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and became their united national anthem. It remains the anthem in Tanzania and Zambia. Using the melody from Joseph Parry’s “Aberystwyth,” it was originally written in the Xhosa language.
Before the arms go up, you should know that this song was written and performed decades before The Tokens made it a doo wop hit in 1961. South African Zulu musician, singer and composer Solomon Popoli Linda (1909-1962) wrote and performed it with the Evening Birds in 1939, under the title “Mbube” (“lion” in the Zulu language). The early name for the song became mbube style of isicathamiya a cappella later made popular by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. We all know it as the sock hop, percussion-driven golden oldie. Sing along now: “Wimba Way, wimba way, wimba way…”
#1 Macroeconomic Newsletter For Black America
"*" indicates required fields