Exciting New African Albums

If you’ve ever used Radio Garden to explore the radio stations across Africa, you know that it’s possible to discover so much music that never leaves the huge continent. But here are three new African music releases that will see wider reach in the west, thank goodness.

Les Amazones d’Afrique: République Amazone (Real World)
An all-female collective of West African musicians singing and campaigning for gender equality. It’s a true supergroup with Benin’s Angélique Kidjo, Malian singers Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia (1/2 of the duo Amadou & Mariam), Massan Coulibaly, and Rokia Koné, plus Nigerian singer Nneka, and Pamela Badjogo from Gabon. It’s a hell of an African musical cast.

Together the artists protest female circumcision, forced marriage, ingrained prejudice (albinism, blindness), and general female oppression in Africa. As regards the music, the album successfully mixes tracks with cutting-edge production—including amazing sampling of talking drums and basslines, and distorted kalimbas—with other songs that have a more traditional African vibe. The new album is a fantastic musical celebration of female empowerment. Here is “I Play the Kora” featuring many of the vocalists on the album:

Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai (Merge Records)
Okay, not from Africa, but rather an English band fronted by the U.K.-born, Nigeria-raised Eno WilliamsIbibio Sound Machine‘s music blends contemporary dance grooves and classic West African highlife and Afrofunk. Williams grew up in the Ibibio region of southeastern Nigeria, where she got a taste of Nigerian gospel along with Nigerian highlife and the Western soul and pop of James Brown, Talking Heads, and the Beatles. I love the album’s modern sound, and the production mix of new and old is truly captivating and never artificial-sounding like many African remixes that I’ve heard over the years. This album is a must-hear. Here is the video for “Give Me a Reason” from Uyai:

Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit)
Finally, a new record from Senegal’s most famous Afro-Latin band, named after the giant African tree. The band fused Cuban music with West African sounds, but was eclipsed back in the day by the newer mbalax sound of Youssou N’Dour. Fortunately in 2001, World Circuit re-released the band’s classic recording from back in the late 80’s, the seminal Pirate’s Choice, so named because it was the most pirated (onto cassette or cassette-to-cassette) album in Senegal, and the band began to regain some of its fame. This new release pays tribute to one of Baobab’s founding members, singer Ndiouga Dieng, who died last November at 69. Baobab’s music is filled with joy and soul, a tonic for all the blues in the world. Here’s the official audio for the first single, titled “Foulo“:

Artists of Les Amazones d’Afrique. Photography by Valérie Malot, assisted by André Caldas