Media Spotlight: Discovering the sound of Africa

The African influence in today’s pop music is undeniably present. The official 2010 FIFA World Cup Waka Waka (Time for Africa) performed by Shakira, was adapted from Zangaléwa from Cameroonian band Golden Sounds – take a listen to the original at 7:38 if you want to hear the original “Waka Waka”. The infamous Fela Kuti heavily influenced Beyonce’s End of Time; Grown Woman and Run the World (Girls) also don’t shy too far away from Afro-beat and Coupé-Décalé.

While music is typically seen as a form of art, it should also be seen as a form of expression. In many ways music can have a sociopolitical message meant to be newsworthy that highlights important – but often neglected – issues.

African music in particular is a celebration through the good and the bad. As an Ivorian-American, I never understood why African wakes and funerals were filled with music and dance. Music itself in Africa also celebrates the end of pain and sorrow.

Media Consul

So get ready to feel all the feels while experiencing a different sound – both Francophone African music and artists inspired by Africa.

Bonne musique!


1) Stromae

Stromae, if you haven’t already heard of this international superstar, is a Belgian singer/rapper. Stromae’s music takes on social issues that many would shy away from. He’s also known for bringing fire loaded poetic lines.

Stromae’s music has ben classified as a mix of house and hip-hop, but he cites his major influences to be Jacques Brel, Son Cubano, Congolose Rumba, and African music in general.

As catchy as this Belgian phenomenon’s music is, what fans love more than his artistry (his music videos are the most creative today), live energy, and lyricism is the social context. From Tous les mêmes (We are all the same), my favorite ave cesaria, to his most noteworthy work Bâtard, Peace of Violence, Papaoutai (a play on words meaning Papa, where are you?). You can’t go wrong with anything from Stromae.


Rien du tout, ou tout tout de suite
Du tout au tout, indécis
Han, tu changes d’avis imbécile?
Mais t’es Hutu ou Tutsi?
Flamand ou Wallon?
Bras ballants ou bras long?
Finalement t’es raciste
Mais t’est blanc ou bien t’es marron, hein?

Ni l’un, ni l’autre
Bâtard, tu es, tu l’étais, est tu le restes

Nothing at all or all immediately
Radically or undecided
Haw, you change your mind idiot?
But you’re Hutu or Tutsi?
Fleming or Walloon?
You have dangling arms or you are influential?
Finally you’re racist?
But you’re white or else brown, eh?

Neither one nor the other
Bastard, you are, you was and you remain it


Papaoutai is such an international success that Penatonix even did a cover of it.

If you’re looking for Stromae, definitely start out with his videos – it’s an experience. Bonus: his videos on Vevo come with the official translation!


2) Magic System

Magic System is a favorite among other Francophiles. An Ivorian music group that really got their start in the 90s has been a big hit with French speakers young and old alike. They’re most known for their party-ready Zouglou numbers and collaborations with North African artists (i.e. Mohammed Lamine and Chawki). Their music is most striking because they’ve stuck with the Ivorian sound and have watched it become quite popular outside of Côte d’Ivoire.

Magic in the Air ft. Chawki

Notable more because of the video that highlights the soccer fever in Côte d’Ivoire – a country that churns out star footballers like Didier Drogba (former Chelsea star, now playing for the Montréal Impact) left and right – and for being the official Ivorian World Cup 2014 song.

Comme d’habitude on est calés
Comme toujours ça va aller
On sème l’ambiance à gogo
Tous ensemble on fait le show

On t’invite à la magie
Y’a pas de raccourci
Oublie tes soucis
Viens faire la folie

As usual we’re ready
As always it will be ok
We liven things up
Together we are going to do the show

We invite you to do magic
There are no shortcuts
Forget your worries
Come to turn insane

T’Endors Pas

T’endors Pas is a true favorite and emotional one, particularly because it’s applicable to the Ivoirian civil wars in 2002 and 2011.

Vivons enfin ce que nous croyons
J’veux pas croire qu’c’est d’ma faute
Vivons ce que nous pensons !
Parce qu’ils pensent que l’enfer c’est les notres
Mais quelle égalité ?
Il faut gagner son destin !
Gagner son destin sans perdre son âme ?
Et apprendre à vivre
Vivre son destin sans perdre son art ?
Loin des regards détournés !
Nan nan ma fierté n’est pas un crime

For once let us live our beliefs
Please don’t think it is my fault
Let us live what we think!
They think we are uit hell
But which equality?
Our destiny should be reached
Can we achieve our destiny without losing heart?
And learn to live
Live with destiny without losing the art
Far from where they glance away
No! Pride is not a crime!
In front of the whole can you rise


3) Corneille

Corneille is a Rwandan-Canadian artist who now mainly sings R&B and all in English. Corneille lost his family to the Rwandan Genocide and was a refugee at age 16. One of his earliest and most known songs, Parce qu’on vient de loin (Because we come from far away) is about the genocide. The song’s meaning is just as beautiful as the song itself.

Parce qu’on vient de loin

Alors on vit chaque jour comme le dernier
Et vous feriez pareil si seulement vous saviez
Combien de fois la fin du monde nous a frôlés
Alors on vit chaque jour comme le dernier
Parce qu’on vient de loin

Mais quand les temps sont durs
On se dit pire que notre histoire n’existe pas
Et quand l’hiver perdure
On se dit simplement que la chaleur nous reviendra
Et c’est facile comme ça

So we live everyday as if it is was the last one
and you would do the same if only you knew
How many times the end of the world came close
So we live everyday as if it is was the last one
Because we come from far (meaning we survived= Corneille survived the massacre in Rwanda where he saw his all family killed)

But when time gets tough
We think our story can’t be true
and when the winter lasts
We say to ourselves the heat will come back
and it is easy like that


4) Les Nubians

Les Nubians is a French-Cameroonian duo known for their Afro-punk tracks. You can’t just sit in your seat when giving them a listen.

If you’re a Sade fan definitely check out their cover of Sweetest Taboo, definitely worth a listen.

Africa for the Future ft. Freshlyground



5. Nico & Vinz

Nico & Vinz is most known here in the U.S. for their 2014 hit Am I Wrong. But their entire Black Star Elephant album is spectacular. The Norwegian duo were both born to African parents – Nico is Ivorian and Vinz is Ghanian. The entire album is a tribute to Mother Africa, but their song People stands out the most.


J’peux jamais oublier cette année au pays
Ma Côte d’Ivoire
On avait pas beaucoup mais
On était content, quoi
Ça m’a appris de ne pas me plaindre
Et d’être bien avec qui je suis
Nous sommes que des hommes
On est tous pareils
On fait du bien et puis on fait du mal
Mais c’est ton choix

I can never forget this year in our country
My Ivory Coast
We don’t have much
But we’re happy
It taught me not to complain
And to be comfortable with who I am
We are all people
We are all the same
We do good or we do bad
But it’s a choice

When The Day Comes


6. Wizkid

Wizkid is a Nigerian artist whom you might have heard if you were listening to OVO Sound on Apple Music this summer. Drake and Skempta even jumped in for the remix. This song needed a shout out because it’s so catchy – no translation needed.


One thought on “Media Spotlight: Discovering the sound of Africa

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