Notes about music and the people who make it 



How Orchestre Les Mangelepa Changed the Course of East African Music

For over 40 years, Orchestre Les Mangelepa have been a dominant force in East Africa’s music scene, making people dance all across Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya with their energetic live performances and signature sound. They’ve helped evolve East African rumba—the musical art form that has come to define East Africa—and have kept it alive in Kenya’s busy capital, where they still play weekly gigs in local clubs.


River Dancing: Nyege Nyege Festival Reviewed

In Uganda, on the banks of the Nile, Megan Iacobini de Fazio dives in to Tanzanian singeli, electro acholi and Ghanaian EDM.


Breaking Taboos in Zanzibar

Donning brightly coloured kangas and headscarves, several women take their place around a large, bright room, furrowing their brows as they tune their instruments. Vibrant laughter, the quivering sound of the violin, the rhythmic thumps of the percussion and the hypnotic hum of a female voice chaotically compete with each other, until the appearance of Mariam Hamdani in the doorway brings the cacophony to a halt.


The New Wave of East African Sound

“I hate when someone tells me I don’t sound African,” says Ukweli, the youngest member of East African Wave—or EA Wave for short. “What am I supposed to do, put Conga drums on all of my tracks? My music is African by virtue of me being African.”The 21-year-old is one-fifth of EA Wave—a group of five DJs and music producers who, over the last couple of years, have created a small scene in Nairobi around their style of electronic music: an amalgamation of trap, house, trip-hop, and downtempo beats.

Record Store Day at Jimmy’s, the vinyl man of Kenyatta Market

Last Saturday dozens of people made their way through the tight alleyways of Kenyatta Market, past the hair salons and through the nyama choma (roast meat) smoke to stall 570, where James ‘Jimmy’ Rugami set up shop in 1989. Young, old, Kenyan and expat alike filled the tight space by the stall, cradling cold beers as they browsed the hundreds of records on offer.


Malawi’s Lake Of Stars Festival Returns To Its Roots

An eclectic mix of live music and DJs, palm-fringed white beaches, cold beer, hammocks, and some of the best stargazing in the world: can anything sound more appealing? These are only a few of the things drawing an ever-increasing number of music lovers to Malawi’s biggest music event, Lake of Stars.


Addis Acoustic Project Revives And Globalizes Ethio-Jazz

In 2011 the band released their first album. The hour-long record perfectly encapsulates the theme which Mezmur had in mind during the band’s conception. Covering tracks which already gleaned sounds from places as diverse as Armenia, Sudan and Europe, and layering them with latin, jazz and folk influences, Addis Acoustic create an album which is timeless, global and yet undeniably Ethiopian.


 Portico Quartet on the Future of Art in the Modern Age

We caught up with saxophonist Jack Wylie after a captivating performance at U.K.’s Womad Festival to talk about the album, their return as a quartet, and how automation doesn’t have to mean the end of art.

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Nyege Nyege Brings Underground African Music to the Shore of the River Nile

Most people hadn’t even set up their tents when the sky darkened and swelled, pregnant with the tropical deluge that within minutes would turn everything to mud and water. But even as the rain fell and thunder rumbled close by, the first arrivals gathered by the main and stage and kicked off their shoes, dancing in the rain, clothes and hair soon clinging to their skin


A word with Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara

The internationally acclaimed Malian musician tells Megan Iacobini di Fazio about the power of song and why ‘world music’ is just music from the world.


Nyege Nyege Tapes Spotlight Uganda’s Burgeoning Electronic Music Scene

Since 2013, Arlen Dilsizian and Derek Debru have galvanized Uganda’s electronic music scene, throwing parties and events with a focus on underground electronic music. “Dope underground music, that’s what we’re about. Just dope music,” says Dilsizian, an ethno-musicologist and co-founder of emerging Uganda-based label Nyege Nyege Tapes.

The Tanzania Albinism Collective Turn Personal Pain Into Emotional Soul

A delicate, hypnotic voice opens White African Power, the first album by Tanzania Albinism Collective, setting the tone for a record built equally on raw vocals, and lyrics that speak candidly of personal tragedy. “The world is hard, and I’m feeling defeated,” singer Christina Wagulu laments in Swahili. “Hatred, jealousy, and other emotions damage my heart / Disease weighs me down like defeat.”


Girum Mezmur

During a career spanning more than two decades, the 42-year-old musician has effortlessly experimented with an array of different styles, mastered a number of diverse instruments, and played with some of Ethiopia’s most renowned musicians.


Taking Stock of East Africa's Music Scene

New festivals championing alternative African music are popping up all around the region, young self-taught DJs are sampling traditional instruments, and secret Facebook groups are dedicated to the discovery of obscure music; there are workshops about finding an identity in East African music and about marketing oneself online, and events whose line-up include musicians from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and abroad. 



The Africa Seven Label is Reissuing Some of Africa’s Funkiest Jams

When London-based record collectors Rich Elson and John Bryan began work on digitizing the vast Sonodisc Catalogue—one of the largest label and distribution groups releasing Afro disco, funk, jazz, boogie and latin sounds—in 2012, all they had was a long list on a piece of paper. With no physical records or masters to speak of, they started tracking down the various records on the catalogue.

Kongoloti Records Offers Alternative Lusophone Music With a Dose Of Activism

The Mozambique-based record label Kongoloti Records is out to change that. The label takes contemporary music from Lusophone Africa—the melodic sounds of Northern Mozambique, politically-charged Angolan hip-hop, or J Dilla-inspired beats from Maputo—and brings it to the rest of the world. “We were intrigued by how much music from Lusophone Africa people really knew, so we started this journey,” says Milton Gulli.


The Vinyl Man of Kenyatta Market

Tucked away in the meat corner of the market is stall 570, where James ‘Jimmy’ Rugami has been selling music since 1989. Raising from an old record player, the sounds of rhumba and lingala waft through the air and mingle with the smoky aromas of roast meat. PHOTOS by Rachel Clara Reed

Fatoumata Diawara: “It’s Up to Us to Bring Africa to the World”

The words power and music frequently come up in the same sentence when Fatou speaks. She believes that culture can be a strong force in the development of her beloved continent, and that musicians can have a wider and deeper impact than politicians, without the violence.

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Nairobi Gets the Jazz Bug

It's a Wednesday evening in Westlands, known for its neon-lit streets, raucous clubs and 24 hour fried chicken joints. Hidden away behind a tyre yard, away from the clubs pumpng out Jamaican Dancehall and Nigerian Afrobeat, a crowd is gathering for an impromptu jam session at The Alchemist, one oc the city's most popular venues. 

Sauti Za Busara live review

After a year-long hiatus, Sauti Za Busara is back. This year the festival happened across three stages, with the main one set up between the imposing walls of the 400-year-old Omani fort. The eclectic line-up featured traditional taarab groups alongside Ethiopian dub, Moroccan reggae, and psuchedelich rock from Seychelles to mention but a few. 


Malawi’s Lake Of Stars Festival Returns To Its Roots

An eclectic mix of live music and DJs, palm-fringed white beaches, cold beer, hammocks, and some of the best stargazing in the world: can anything sound more appealing? These are only a few of the things drawing an ever-increasing number of music lovers to Malawi’s biggest music event, Lake of Stars.