Music and dance seem to flow freely in the veins of almost every African, with some having greater success than others in the area of making a career out of it. Some say that nations that have experienced the most oppression, turbulence and violence in their recent historical past have the people with the best voices. Perhaps there is some truth in this with a country like South Africa that has produced legends like Mirriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
However, great talent is to be found all around the continent as well. West Africa has produced the likes of Senegalese Youssou N'Dour and Nigerian Fela Kuti. Other regions also have produced music that sweeps across the continent by great taleents like Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe and Papa Wemba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One of Africa’s greatest, greatest music artists is Mali’s Salif Keita. Born in 1949, Salif is bred from a noble family, a descendant of Sunjata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire in 1240. Perhaps one of his most popular songs that is played all around the continent is Africa. In every corner of the continent you might find yourself in, people never fail to sing along or dance to the song Africa, whether or not they follow or understand the lyrics. The beat and rhythm is just too catchy and everybody knows the name Africa anyway. Dubbed the continental anthem part of the song goes:
Ça fait rêver
Ça fait vibrer
Ça fait dancer
La Guinée, le Gabon, Senegal, le Bénin, Yaoundé! Oh quelles bons pays! […]
At times I laugh to myself as it seems if people in Africa are consciously and subconsciously looking for occasions, any occasion for that matter, to break out in song. Both sad, happy and even mundane events, major or minor, present opportunities to sing.
Take for instance school children. When being bussed, for example from one school to another for a sporting event, they often tend to sing out loud, bursting their lungs as they get shuttled between schools. As for adults, well, even political rallies and meetings often start and end with singing. Modern hospitals or not, women even break out in song when one of their beloved ones give birth in the maternity wings. Workers demanding for higher wages and varsity students protesting against one thing or another also use their picketing as an opportunity to sing and dance.
Oh the joys of Africa!