There is no continent in the world that has contributed so much to music and creativity than Africa. Africans have traditionally been known to have created wonderful rhythms and all modern forms of music like blues, rock, jazz, r&b, soul and disco lead back to this wonderful continent.
The American blues was known to have originated from the African slaves working on the vast plantations. For them, music was an escape mode from the tyranny of slavery. Even though African string instruments included traditional kora, the guitar came from the Western world only much later. Although there are many famous African guitar players in the West like BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry, not many people are aware of guitar players from the continent of Africa.
Here are a few guitarists from Africa you should be aware of. Check them out.
Ali Farka Toure
One of the most famous African guitarists of all time, Ali Farka Touré came from Mali and enthralled audiences around the world. He was known to mix traditional African music with the blues and more contemporary guitar style. He’s collaborated with big names like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, counts Martin Scorcese as a fan and has won a couple of Grammys.
He died in 2006 leaving behind a great legacy although in 2012 Mali was taken over by extremists who banned everything from his music to simple pleasures like online gambling. People who played something as harmless as blackjack which is not just gambling but a game of skill were put in prison. Thankfully, that ended in 2016.
Diblo Dibala is a Congolese musician who was often called Machine Gun because he was incredibly fast on the guitar. He is a soukous musician which is a dance genre that originated in Congo. His style of music became very popular in France in the 80s where he formed a band called Loketo.
Diblo still plays his trademark music in a band called Matchatcha so don’t miss it if you ever get an opportunity.
Etran Finatawa is a band from Niger. The members come from a nomadic tribe and their style of music is popularly known as desert blues. Their harmonies have a very traditional dance vibe to them making them a very popular band in the international festival circuit. Their skills have found listeners across the world including the USA as one can tell from this NYT article.
Franco Luambo Makiadi
One of the forerunners in the African guitar scene, Franco Luambo Makiadi was an influential musician of his time. He started playing guitar from the age of seven on his homemade guitar and it is said that he used to play at his mother’s bread stall to attract customers. He was known for mixing Cuban and Congolese styles of music through his band OK Jazz. He died in 1989 leaving behind a wonderful catalogue of soukous and rumba music.
The world of African music is vast and deep and it will serve you well to start digging in to discover some real treasures. The above mentioned names will be a great way to begin.