Algerian music is virtually synonymous with Raï among foreigners; the musical genre has achieved great popularity in France, Spain and other parts of Europe. For several centuries, Algerian music was dominated by styles inherited from Al-Andalus, eventually forming a unique North African twist on these poetic forms. Algerian music came to include suites called nuubaat (singular nuuba). Later derivatives include rabaab and hawzii.
Music in Algeria offers a rich diversity of genre: popular music (Chaabi), various genres of Andalusian classical music such as Sana'a, Gharnati music, Ma'luf, as well as classical Arabic, Bedouin, Berber music (Staifi, Raï, Kabyle, Shawi, Tuareg, Gnawa, etc.),
Andalusian music is particularly well developed in Algeria, and is considered the most sophisticated by musical scholars - there exist three schools, the greatest number in the Maghreb region, and the performers invited to festivals across the Maghreb are usually of Algerian origin. Famous performers include Beihdja Rahal, Brahim Hadj Kacem, Nouri Koufi and Leila Borsali.
Haouzi music is another style of Algerian music. It took the melodies of Andalusian music and modernized them. Haouzi music is most often played at weddings and ceremonies.
Khaled known as Cheb Khaled, is considered as the King of Rai music, has achieved international fame, as Rai music is very popular in Algeria, Morocco France, Tunisia, Turkey, Libya, and Egypt. Staifi is a genre of music which began in Eu-eulma City, and is mostly played at weddings and celebrations, primarily featuring lyrics which symbolize purity and love.
Chaabi refers to a style of recent urban popular music, inherited from the older Andalusian repertoire, of which the best known performer was El Hajj Muhammad El Anka, considered to be the Grand Master of Andalusian classical music. True styles of folk music include hofii, a form of female vocal music, and zindalii, from Constantine.
Raï is a creative outlet to express love and romance; a mix between Western music and Bedouin music.
Ma'luf is a genre of Andalusian classical music from Constantine which has survived because of the efforts of the Tunisian government and a few private individuals. Malouf is still performed in public, especially at weddings and circumcision ceremonies, though recordings are relatively rare.
Raï (//, //; Arabic: راي), sometimes written rai, is a form of Algerian folk music that dates back to the 1920s. Singers of Raï are called cheb (Arabic: شاب) (or shabab, i.e. young) as opposed to sheikh (Arabic: شيخ) (shaykh, i.e. old), the name given to Chaabi singers. The tradition arose in the city of Oran, primarily among the poor. Traditionally sung by men, by the end of the 20th century, female singers had become common. The lyrics of Raï have concerned social issues such as disease and the policing of European colonies that affected native populations.
Raï is a type of Algerian popular music that arose in the 1920s in the port city of Oran, and that self-consciously ran counter to accepted artistic and social mores. It appealed to young people who sought to modernize the traditional Islamic values and attitudes. Regional, secular, and religious drum patterns, melodies, and instruments were blended with Western electric instrumentation. Raï emerged as a major world-music genre in the late 1980s.
In the years just following World War I, the Algerian city of Oran—known as "little Paris"—was a melting pot of various cultures, full of nightclubs and cabarets; it was the place to go for a bawdy good time. Out of this milieu arose a group of male and female Muslim singers called chioukhs and cheikhates, who rejected the refined, classical poetry of traditional Algerian music. Instead, to the accompaniment of pottery drums and end-blown flutes, they sang about the adversity of urban life in a raw, gritty, sometimes vulgar, and inevitably controversial language that appealed especially to the socially and economically disadvantaged. The cheikhates further departed from tradition in that they performed not only for women but also and especially for men.
The music performed was called raï. It drew its name from the Algerian Arabic word raï ("opinion" or "advice"), which was typically inserted—and repeated—by singers to fill time as they formulated a new phrase of improvised lyrics. By the early 1940s Cheikha Rimitti el Reliziana had emerged locally as a musical and linguistic luminary in the raï tradition, and she continued to be among the music's most prominent performers into the 21st century.
In the early 20th century, Oran was divided into Jewish, French, Spanish, and Native Algerian quarters. By independence in 1962, the Jewish quarter (known as the Derb), was home to musicians like Reinette L'Oranaise, Saoud l'Oranais and Larbi Bensari. Sidi el Houari was home to Spanish fishermen and many refugees from Spain who arrived after 1939. These two-quarters had active music scenes, and the French inhabitants of the city went to the Jewish and Spanish areas to examine the music. The Arabs of Oran were known for al-andalous, a classical style of music imported from Southern Spain after 1492. Hawzi classical music was popular during this time, and female singers of the genre included Cheikha Tetma, Fadila D'zirya and Myriam Fekkai. Another common musical genre was Bedoui ("Bedouin") (or gharbi ("Western")), which originated from Bedouin chants. Bedoui consisted of Melhun poetry being sung with accompaniment from guellal drums and gaspa Flutes. Bedoui was sung by male singers, known as cheikhs, who were dressed in long, white jellabas and turbans. Lyrics came from the poetry of people such as Mestfa ben Brahim and Zenagui Bouhafs. Performers of bedoui included Cheikh Hamada, Cheikh Mohammed Senoussi, Cheikh Madani, Cheikh Hachemi Bensmir and Cheikh Khaldi. Senoussi was the first to have had recorded the music in 1906.
French colonization of Algeria changed the organization of society, producing a class of poor, uneducated urban men and women. Bedoui singers mostly collaborated with the French colonizers, though one exception from such collaboration was Cheikh Hamada. The problems of survival in a life of poverty were the domain of street musicians who sang bar-songs called zendanis. A common characteristic of these songs included exclamations of the word "raï!" and variations thereof. The word "rai" implies that an opinion is being expressed.
In the 1920s, the women of Oran were held to strict code of conduct. Many of those that failed became social outcasts and singers and dancers. They sang medh songs in praise of the prophet Mohammed and performed for female audiences at ceremonies such as weddings and circumcision feasts. These performers included Les Trois Filles de Baghdad, Soubira bent Menad and Kheira Essebsadija. Another group of female social outcasts were called cheikhas, who were known for their alluring dress, hedonistic lyrics, and their display of a form of music that was influenced from meddhahates and zendani singers. These cheikhas, who sang for both men and women, included people such as Cheikha Remitti el Reliziana, Cheikha Grélo, Cheikha Djenia el Mostganmia, Cheikha Bachitta de Mascara, and Cheikha Ouachma el Tmouchentia. The 1930s saw the rise of revolutionary organizations, including organizations motivated by Marxism, which mostly despised these early roots raï singers. At the same time, Arabic classical music was gaining huge popularity across the Maghreb, especially the music of Egypt's Umm Kulthum.
When first developed, raï was a hybrid blend of rural and cabaret musical genres, invented by and targeted toward distillery workers, peasants who had lost their land to European settlers, and other types of lower class citizens. The geographical location of Oran allowed for the spread of many cultural influences, allowing raï musicians to absorb an assortment of musical styles such as flamenco from Spain, gnawa music, and French cabaret, allowing them to combine with the rhythms typical of Arab nomads. In the early 1930s, social issues afflicting the Arab population in the colony, such as the disease of typhus, harassment and imprisonment by the colonial police, and poverty were prominent themes of raï lyrics. However, other main lyrical themes concerned the likes of wine, love, and the meaning and experiences of leading a marginal life. From its origins, women played a significant role in the music and performance of raï. In contrast to other Algerian music, raï incorporated dancing in addition to music, particularly in a mixed-gender environment.
In the 1930s, Raï, al-andalousm, and the Egyptian classical style influenced the formation of wahrani, a musical style popularized by Blaoui Houari. Musicians like Mohammed Belarbi and Djelloul Bendaoud added these influences to other Oranian styles, as well as Western piano and accordion, resulting in a style called bedoui citadinisé. Revolt began in the mid-1950s, and musicians which included Houari and Ahmed Saber supported the Front de Libération National. After independence in 1962, however, the government of the Houari Boumédienne regime, along with President Ahmed Ben Bella, did not tolerate criticism from musicians such as Saber, and suppression of Raï and Oranian culture ensued. The number of public performances by female raï singers decreased, which led to men playing an increased role in this genre of music. Meanwhile, traditional raï instruments such as the gasba (reed flute), and the derbouka (North african drums) were replaced with the violin and accordion.
In the 1960s, Bellamou Messaoud and Belkacem Bouteldja began their career, and they changed the raï sound, eventually gaining mainstream acceptance in Algeria by 1964. In the 1970s, recording technology began growing more advanced, and more imported genres had Algerian interest as well, especially Jamaican reggae with performers like Bob Marley. Over the following decades, raï increasingly assimilated the sounds of the diverse musical styles that surfaced in Algeria. During the 1970s, raï artists brought in influences from other countries such as Egypt, Europe, and the Americas. Trumpets, the electric guitar, synthesizers, and drum machines were specific instruments that were put into music. This marked the beginning of pop raï, which was performed by a later generation which adopted the title of Cheb (male) or Chaba (female), meaning "young," to distinguish themselves from the older musicians who continued to perform in the original style. Among the most prominent performers of the new raï were Chaba Fadela, Cheb Hamid, and Cheb Mami. However, by the time the first international raï festival was held in Algeria in 1985, Cheb Khaled had become virtually synonymous with the genre. More festivals followed in Algeria and abroad, and raï became a popular and prominent new genre in the emergent world-music market. International success of the genre had begun as early as 1976 with the rise to prominence of producer Rachid Baba Ahmed.
The added expense of producing LPs as well as the technical aspects imposed on the medium by the music led to the genre being released almost exclusively onto cassette by the early 1980s, with a great deal of music having no LP counterpart at all and a very limited exposure on CD.
While this form of raï increased cassette sales, its association with mixed dancing, an obscene act according to orthodox Islamic views, led to government-backed suppression. However, this suppression was overturned due to raï's growing popularity in France, where it was strongly demanded by the Maghrebi Arab community. This popularity in France was increased as a result of the upsurge of Franco-Arab struggles against racism. This led to a following of a white audience that was sympathetic to the antiracist struggle.
After the election of president Chadli Bendjedid in 1979, Raï music had a chance to rebuild because of his lessened moral and economic restraints. Shortly afterwards, Raï started to form into pop-raï, with the use of instruments such as electrical synthesizers, guitars, and drum machines.
In the 1980s, raï began its period of peak popularity. Previously, the Algerian government had opposed raï because of its sexually and culturally risqué topics, such as alcohol and consumerism, two subjects that were taboo to the traditional Islamic culture.
The government eventually attempted to ban raï, banning the importation of blank cassettes and confiscating the passports of raï musicians. This was done to prevent raï from not only spreading throughout the country, but to prevent it from spreading internationally and from coming in or out of Algeria. Though this limited the professional sales of raï, the music increased in popularity through the illicit sale and exchange of tapes. In 1985, Algerian Colonel Snoussi joined with French minister of culture Jack Lang to convince the Algerian state to accept raï. He succeeded in getting the government to return passports to raï musicians and to allow raï to be recorded and performed in Algeria, with government sponsorship, claiming it as a part of Algerian cultural heritage. This not only allowed the Algerian government to financially gain from producing and releasing raï, but it allowed them to monitor the music and prevent the publication of "unclean" music and dance and still use it to benefit the Algerian State's image in the national world. In 1985, the first state-sanctioned raï festival was held in Algeria, and a festival was also held in january 1986 in with Cheb Khaled, Cheb Saharaoui, Chebba Fadela, Cheb Hamid, Cheb Mami and the group Raï NaraÏ in the theater MC93 of Bobigny, France.
In 1988, Algerian students and youth flooded the streets to protest state-sponsored violence, the high cost of staple foods, and to support the Peoples' Algerian Army. President Chadli Bendjedid, who held power from 1979 to 1992, and his FLN cronies blamed raï for the massive uprising that left 500 civilians dead in October 1988. Most raï singers denied the allegation, including Cheb Sahraoui, who said there was no connection between raï and the October rebellion. Yet raï's reputation as protest music stuck because the demonstrators adopted Khaled's song "El Harba Wayn" ("To Flee, But Where?") to aid their protesting:
Where has youth gone?
Where are the brave ones?
The rich gorge themselves
The poor work themselves to death
The Islamic charlatans show their true face...
You can always cry or complain
Or escape... but where?
In the 1990s, censorship ruled raï musicians. One exiled raï singer, Cheb Hasni, accepted an offer to return to Algeria and perform at a stadium in 1994. Hasni's fame and controversial songs led to him receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalist extremists. On September 29, 1994, he was the first raï musician to be murdered, outside his parents' home in the Gambetta district of Oran, reportedly because he let girls kiss him on the cheek during a televised concert. His death came amid other violent actions against North African performers. A few days before his death, the Kabyle singer Lounès Matoub was abducted by the GIA. The following year, on February 15, 1995, Raï producer Rachid Baba-Ahmed was assassinated in Oran.
The escalating tension of the Islamist anti-raï campaign caused raï musicians such as Chab Mami and Chaba Fadela to relocate from Algeria to France. Moving to France was a way to sustain the music's existence. France was where Algerians had moved during the post-colonial era to find work, and where musicians had a greater opportunity to oppose the government without censorship.
Though raï found mainstream acceptance in Algeria, Islamic fundamentalists still protested the genre, saying that it was still too liberal and too contrasting to traditional Islamic values. The fundamentalists claimed that the musical genre still promoted sexuality, alcohol and Western consumer culture, but critics of the fundamentalist viewpoint stated that fundamentalists and raï musicians were ultimately seeking converts from the same population, the youth, who often had to choose where they belonged between the two cultures. Despite the governmental support, a split remained between those citizens belonging to strict Islam and those patronizing the raï scene.
Cheb Khaled was the first musician with international success, including his 1988 duet album with jazz musician Safy Boutella album Kutché, though his popularity did not extend to places such as the United States and Latin America. Other prominent performers of the 1980s included Houari Benchenet, Raïna Raï, Mohamed Sahraoui, Cheb Mami, Cheba Zohra and Cheb Hamid.
International success grew in the 1990s, with Cheb Khaled's 1992 album Khaled. With Khaled no longer in Algeria, musicians such as Cheb Tahar, Cheb Nasro, and Cheb Hasni began singing lover's raï, a sentimental, pop-ballad form of raï music. Later in the decade, funk, hip hop, and other influences were added to raï, especially by performers like Faudel and Rachid Taha, the latter of whom took raï music and fused it with rock. Taha did not call his creation raï music, but rather described it as a combination of folk raï and punk. Another mix of cultures in Arabic music of the late 1990s came through Franco-Arabic music released by musicians such as Aldo.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a rise in female raï performers. According to authors Gross, McMurray, and Swedenburg in their article "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Raï, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identity," raï musician Chaba Zahouania was forbidden by her family to perform or even appear in public. According to Gross et al., the raï record companies have pushed female artists to become more noticed.
In 2000, raï music had international success thanks to Sting's duet with raï singer Cheb Mami on the song "Desert Rose", released January 17, 2000. Sting was widely credited for introducing raï music to Western music audiences, and as such, the song was a success on many charts, reaching No. 2 in Canada, No. 3 in Switzerland, No. 4 in Italy, No. 15 in the UK, and No. 17 in the US. It also reached number 1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative and Hot Dance Single Sales charts respectively.
Throughout the course of raï music's development and commercialization in Algeria, there have been many attempts to stifle the genre. From lyrical content to the album cover images, raï has been a controversial music. Religious identity and transnationalism function to define the complexities of Maghrebi identity. This complex identity is expressed through raï music and is often contested and censored in many cultural contexts.
In 1962, as Algeria claimed its national independence, expression of popular culture was stifled by the conservative nature of the people. During this time of drastic restriction of female expression, many men started to become raï singers. By 1979, when president Chadli Bendjedid endorsed more liberal moral and economic standards, raï music became further associated with Algerian youth. The music remained stigmatized amongst the Salafi Islamists and the Algerian government. Termed the "raï generation", the youth found raï as a way to express sexual and cultural freedoms. An example of this free expression is through the lyrics of Cheb Hasni in his song "El Berraka". Hasni sang: "I had her ... because when you're drunk that's the sort of idea that runs through your head!" Hasni challenged the fundamentalists of the country and the condemnation of non-religious art forms.
Raï started to circulate on a larger scale, via tape sales, TV exposure, and radio play. However, the government attempted to "clean up" raï to adhere to conservative values. Audio engineers manipulated the recordings of raï artists to submit to such standards. This tactic allowed for the economy to profit from the music by gaining conservative audiences. The conservativeness not only affected the way listeners received raï music, but also the way the artists, especially female artists, presented their own music. For instance, female raï artists usually do not appear on their album covers. Such patriarchal standards pressure women to societal privacy.
The music of Burkina Faso includes the folk music of 60 different ethnic groups. The Mossi people, centrally located around the capital, Ouagadougou, account for 40% of the population while, to the south, Gurunsi, Gurma, Dagaaba and Lobi populations, speaking Gur languages closely related to the Mossi language, extend into the coastal states. In the north and east the Fulani of the Sahel preponderate, while in the south and west the Mande languages are common; Samo, Bissa, Bobo, Senufo and Marka. Burkinabé traditional music has continued to thrive and musical output remains quite diverse. Popular music is mostly in French: Burkina Faso has yet to produce a major pan-African success.
Burkina Faso's popular music scene has not yet garnered the fame of that of other West African countries, and many popular recordings are imported from Europe, the United States and Democratic Republic of the Congo. In spite of this influx of popular styles, a few early musical acts achieved success such as Koudbi Koala's group Saaba, who perform traditional Mossi music from the region around Ouagadougou, the nation's capital. With a musical career that lasted half a century, singer Amadou Balaké was one of the foremost singers from the country during the 20th century. In his music, Balaké combined Mandé, Mossi, and Afro-Cuban traditions. Other influential artists from the country include George Ouédraogo and Joseph Moussa Salambéré "Salambo".
Popular traditional groups from Burkina Faso include balafon bands, percussion ensembles and others such as Farafina and Gabin Dabiré, who uses elements of traditional Burkinabé music. Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso's second-largest city, is a cultural centre of Burkina Faso's Mandé people of the southwest. Burkinabe artist Barack La Voix D'or is a contemporary artist blending traditional Mande styles with modern afrobeat.
More recently, modern musicians in Burkina Faso are beginning to incorporate more foreign influences into their music, especially those from the United States, with genres such as hip-hop, rap, salsa and techno entering the music scene. The zouglou genre from Côte d'Ivoire, along with its originator zouk, are also popular modern genres in Burkina Faso.
Another modern genre that entered Burkina Faso is the Ivorian coupé-décalé, characterised by its electronic dance beat and percussive rhythm. Modern popular artists in Burkina Faso that have utilised this genre include Floby, Dez Altino, Dicko Fils, Imilo Lechanceux, Kayawoto, Huguo Boss, Razben, Barsa 1er, Agozo, Bebeto Bongo, Greg Burkimbila, David Le Combattant and Sofiano.
The Djeli, a caste of courtly praise-singers in Burkina Faso, function like the griots elsewhere in West Africa: at each ruler's funeral they recite the names and histories of past rulers, they intervene in people's personal affairs and perform at social gatherings. The Mossi and their griots retain ancient royal courts and courtly music.
The kora, the stringed instrument of the djeli, has been popular throughout much of West Africa since the Malian empire of the 1240s. The instrument traditionally featured seven strings until the Gambian griot Madi Woulendi increased that number to twenty-one. The kora can be played in several scales including the hypolydian mode (saouta), silaba, sim'bi and mandéka.
Mande-speakers are also known for the balafon, a kind of wooden xylophone, the exact characteristics of which can vary depending on the maker. The Dagara, Bwa and Senufo peoples also have their own varieties.
Djembe drums, like balafons, are often manufactured in Bobo Dioulasso. The djembe, a vital part of Burkinabé traditional music, is said to be of Malinké origin. It is made from a single piece of wood, usually from a caïlcedrat or lenke tree.
The bendré drum (called bara in Mali and dumaa among the Hausa) is a membranophone made from a gourd with the top cut off and covered with goat or sheep skin. It is an ancient instrument, probably introduced during the reign of Naaba Oubri to be played in sacred music at the royal courts of Moaga by a head drummer (benaaba) who strikes the center or edges of the drum to make varying sounds.
Another stringed instrument is called the n'goni. Legend says it was invented by a Senufo hunter. The n'goni is also played in Niger, Senegal and Mali.
The Fula people (Fulbe) of the north play a variety of traditional instruments including drums, hoddu (or xalam, a plucked skin-covered lute related to the banjo) and the riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument), and use complex vocal techniques with clapping percussion. Their griots are known as gawlo.
The music of Kenya is very diverse, with multiple types of folk music based on the variety over 50 regional languages. Zanzibaran taarab music has also become popular, as has hip hop, reggae music, soul, soukous, zouk, rock and roll, funk and Europop. Additionally, there is a growing western classical music scene and Kenya is home to a number of music colleges and schools.
The guitar is the most dominant instrument in Kenyan popular music. Guitar rhythms are very complex and include both native beats and imported ones, especially the Congolese cavacha rhythm; music usually involves the interplay of multiple parts and, more recently, showy guitar solos.
Lyrics are most often in Swahili or native languages, like Kalenjin though radio will generally not play music in one of the ethnic languages.
Benga music has been popular since the late 1960s, especially around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used to refer to any kind of pop music: bass, guitar and percussion are the usual instruments.
Partially from 1994 and wholly from 2003 Kenyan popular music has been recognised through the Kisima Music Awards. A number of styles predominate in Kenya including Benga and Reggae have separate categories, and a multitude of Kenyan artists are awarded each year.
The guitar was popular in Kenya even before the 19th century, well before it penetrated other African countries. Fundi Konde was the best-known early guitarist, alongside Paul Mwachupa and Lukas Tututu the middle of the 1920s, dance clubs had appeared in Mombasa, playing music for Christians to dance in a European style.
During World War II, Kenyan and Ugandan musicians were drafted as entertainers in the King's African Rifles and continued after the war as the Rhino Band, the first extremely popular band across Kenya. In 1948, the group split, with many of the members forming the Kiko Kids or other bands.
By the 1950s, radio and recording technology had advanced across Kenya. Fundi Konde, the prominent guitarist, was an early broadcaster and influential in the fledgling recording industry.
Beginning in about 1952, recordings from legendary Congolese guitarists like Edouard Massengo and Jean-Bosco Mwenda were available in Kenya. Bosco's technique of picking with the thumb and forefinger (finger-style) became popular. Finger-style music is swift and usually based around small groups, in which the second guitar follows the first with syncopated bass rhythms. This style of music became extremely popular later in the decade.
The two biggest genres of pop music played by Kenyan bands are called the swahili sound or the Congolese sound. Both are based on soukous (rumba) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Swahili music can be distinguished by a much slower rhythm, though the styles have had a tendency to merge in recent decades. The genres are not distinguished by language, though Swahili pop is usually in Swahili or the related Taiti language. Both are sometimes in Lingala or one of the native languages of Kenya.
Congolese musicians were the most popular performers in Kenya during the 1970s and 1980s, only losing their mainstream acceptance in the early 1990s. Orchestre Virunga was perhaps the most popular and long-running of the Congolese bands. During this period, Swahili musicians (many from Tanzania) were mostly based around the Wanyika bands. This group of often rival bands began in 1971 when a Tanzanian group named Arusha Jazz came to Kenya, eventually becoming the Simba Wanyika Band. The band first split in 1978, when many of the group members formed Les Wanyika. Other notable Congolese groups in Kenya included Super Mazembe and Les Mangelepa. Tanzania's Moro Band and Remmy Ongala also became quite popular in Kenya back in the 1980s. It was hard to differentiate them from the native Kenyan singers.
Tourist-oriented pop covers are popular, and employ more live bands than more authentic Kenyan folk and pop genres. Them Mushrooms, who began playing the Nairobi hotel circuit in 1987, are among these bands. Lately, hotel bands like Them Mushrooms and Safari Sound Band have begun playing reggae.
The Luo people, one of Kenya's largest ethnic groups, live in the Western part of Kenya and their pop music is what epitomizes the original Benga style. Contemporary variations of Benga and Luo traditional music has produced the Ohangla style that is popular with young Luo. The Luo of Kenya have long played an eight-string lyre called nyatiti, and guitarists from the area sought to imitate the instrument's syncopated melodies. In benga, the electric bass guitar is played in a style reminiscent of the nyatiti. As late as the turn of the twentieth century, this bass in nyatiti supported the rhythm essential in transmitting knowledge about the society through music. Opondo Owenga of Gem Yala, the grandfather of Odhiambo Siangla, was known in employing music as a means of teaching history of the Luo. The fathers of the Luo Benga genre are George Ramogi (Omogi wuod Weta) and CK Jazz. He helped the Benga enthusiasts by recording their Benga music in different labels in the capital city Nairobi. Dr. Mengo of Victoria Jazz was a protege of George Ramogi.
In 1967, the first major benga band, Shirati Jazz, was formed by Daniel Owino Misiani. The group launched a string of hits that were East Africa's biggest songs throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Shirati Jazz's biggest rival was Victoria Jazz, formed in 1972 by Ochieng Nelly Mengo and Collela Mazee. Despite many personnel changes, Victoria Jazz remained popular throughout the 1970s, when the Voice of Kenya radio station pushed an onslaught of East African pop. Victoria C Band of Awino Lawi was one of the splinter group of Victoria Jazz.
1997 saw the death of three prominent Luo Benga artist, Okatch Biggy of Heka Heka Band, George Ramogi and Prince Jully. The Jolly Boys Band of Prince Jully was taken over by his wife Princess Jully and she has since been a leading female Benga musician.
Another famous benga band Migori Super Stars was formed in the mid 1970s and was led by Musa Olwete which later split to form another popular benga band Migori Super Stars C with musicians such as Joseph Ochola (Kasongo Polo Menyo), Onyango Jamba, Ochieng' Denge denge and others.
More modern benga artists include Akothee Kapere Jazz Band and the rootsy Ogwang Lelo Okoth. The new millennium has seen emergence of Dola Kabarry and Musa Juma. The latter saw his career cut short as he died in 2011.MJ,as he was popularly known to his fans, developed a kind of benga that infused elements of rumba. he was able to mold other musicians such as John Junior, Ogonji, Madanji, and his late brother Omondi Tonny. More recently, the compositions of the trumpeter Christine Kamau combine jazz with benga and rhumba.
There are also Benga artists are based in countries other than Kenya, such as American/Kenyan group Extra Golden.
The Kamba people live to the south and east of Nairobi. Their pop music is closely related to benga, but includes a second guitar that plays a melodious counterpoint to the primary guitar. The most popular Kamba pop bands arose in the middle of the 1970s and include Les Kilimambogo Brothers Band led by Kakai Kilonzo, Kalambya Boys & Kalambya Sisters led by Onesmus Musyoki and Joseph Mutaiti and Peter Mwambi & His Kyanganga Boys. Other groups also include Lower Mbooni Boys Band, Muthetheni Boys Band and Ukia Boys Band.
Other Akamba Pop Bands were formed in the 1980s and included Kakuku Boys Band vocalled by John Mutua Muteti whose lyrics consisted of religious, domestic, and court humour, Ngoleni Brothers which was formed by Dick Mutuku Mulwa after he left Kalambya Boys & Kalambya Sisters. It can also be noted that Kalambya Boys original members were Onesmus Musyoki (vocals), Joseph Mutaiti (vocals), Dick Mutuku Mulwa (rhythm guitar), James Maisha Muli(Drums) and Peter Kisaa (solo guitar). Kalambya Boys split and Joseph Mutaiti formed Super Kaiti and Onesmus Musyoki went gospel to form Emali Town Choir.
Leading Luhya musicians include Sukuma Bin Ongaro, and Shem Tube with his group Abana Ba Nasery.
It raised up to a certain level and came an instrument with eight strings called "litungu" played popularly in Bungoma by a group of people called bukusu in a band e.g Sinani Band led by Wanjala Mandari,there after improved and developed in 2020 by Wabwile wa Mbakalo with a love message to educate and fablish the community in luhya/Bukusu dialect Wabwile Wa Mbakalo has become popular in Bungoma region with his sweet voice and recruited other young stars in the region.
Hip hop is a hugely popular style of music in Kenya. Artists rap in English, Swahili, the local Sheng slang or even in vernacular language like kikuyu (G.rongi), Kisii (Smallz Lethal) or dhaluo (Gidi Gidi Maji Maji). One of its many popular genres is Genge which is showcased through artists such as Jua Cali, Nonini and Jimwat. There is also Kapuka rap, which is found with artists like Nameless. Female rappers like Needah of Grosspool Music and Xtatic, who got signed to Sony Music are taking the industry to another level. Others like Wangechi and Femi One are also doing the genre some justice. The country also boasts a large following of hardcore rap which is characterised by swift freestyle battlers and lyricists like Mc Mike G of 237 cypher, Bamboo, G.rongi,Jay Fourz, SDL, Abass Doobiez and Chiwawa.
The genre also boasts only two live performers; Juliani (formerly of Ukoo Flani) and Jemedari, a fresh rapper who draws his roots from Coastal influences
Camp Mulla, an alternative hip hop group, has had more success than any other Kenyan artist in history. As of 28 September 2012, they have won two CHAT Awards and have been nominated for prestigious awards such as the BET Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the MOBO Awards.
Reggae is one of the most popular genres of music in Kenya. Reggae elements are often mixed with local hip hop and pop music, yet there have not been many mainstream reggae musicians in Kenya. One of the best known local reggae musicians is the late Mighty King Kong. Upcoming reggae artist "priest fari" is the artist to watch out for. With two albums "warrior" and "Pressure" under his belt, Priest fari is arguably the next big thing on the Kenyan reggae scene. His touch remains the original Jamaican roots reggae.
Others include Jahkey Malle and Prince Otach. Reggae Ras Naya, is one of the best reggae artists from Kenya and abroad, based in Paris. His last album "Shine" was recorded in Orange Street, Kingston, Jamaica, in 2012. The other albums are called "Freedom", "Mau Mau" and " Black and White". A new album called "Mama" is coming in 2013. Ras Naya represents Kenyan reggae in Europe and the rest of the world.
Other Reggae icons in Kenya who have risen in the recent past include the talented Wyre and Red San. Other artists with notable success include Osmarne, Esizo SDL, Versatile and chronic. The massive love for reggae in Kenya has led to the inception of other talents including Reggae music Deejays. The most remarkable Dj who shines in the hearts of all Kenyan Reggae music lovers is Dj Stano. Dj Stano has grown to be Kenya's biggest reggae music DJ. His talent and love for music has developed to major parts of Kenya and beyond.
Dj Stano's career was catapulted to great heights on one of the largest radio shows in Kenya with millions of listeners live and online. As co-host and DJ on Riddim Base, a daily show on the pioneer reggae station Metro FM, Dj Stano's expertise gained him huge support from reggae music lovers. He also hosted Club Metro, a weekly show on the all reggae station ' Metro Fm'. Dj Stano has taken his talents worldwide with a variety of live shows in places like the UK and Dubai. Currently, he hosts a weekly show "The Rave" on Venus FM. Dj Stano is also part of the Music Unit at the State Broadcaster (KBC).
Rock music has found a home to a growing fan base and with a number of locally established as well as emerging rock bands (there are over twelve active local rock bands in Nairobi alone) further cementing this genre by engaging in different as well as mutually organised rock themed events. Foreign international rock bands (Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, 38th Parallel, Zebra & Giraffe) have also graced the local scene, which reflects on the growing influence and acceptance of this genre.
Organized member bodies such as Wiyathi (now defunct) and Roffeke (Rock 'n' Roll Film Festival Kenya) were fundamental in initially marketing local rock bands in the country by hosting regular shows and helped to establish a vibrant rock community. Recently, the bands also by social event groups like Kenya Rock Fans, have widely assisted the bands to gain popularity and increase their fan base, subsequently the founding of a governing body, the Rock Society of Kenya, which serves to promote the interests of member bands. The society spearheads numerous rock related events like the Battle of the Bands and live rock club shows that has spurred constructive level of activity for bands.
Over the past few years many entertainment spots have also independently incorporated rock music onto their programs further indicating a genuine interest from the public. In addition there are radio stations that play rock music: 98.4 Capital FM and 105.5 X FM, the latter being a 24-hour rock station. In 2019, 105.5 X FM was shut down by the parent company Radio Africa. KTN (Str8up), STV (The Rumble) and K24 (The Rumble) also play regular weekly rock shows. Popular prominent local rock bands include acts such as Parking Lot Grass, Last Year's Tragedy(LYT)- Whose song "March From the Underground" is said to have foreseen the recent attacks on a Kenyan University, Murfy's fLaw, Dove Slimme, M20, Rock of Ages, Seismic, The Itch, The Beathogs, Crystal Axis, DEOWA, Rash, Bedslum and kick ass metal band Mortal Soul.
Kalpop is a music genre that originated in the Klassikan royal communities under Klassik Nation record label. Kalpop is a genre of Klassikan, African, lingual (multicultured), and popular music that originated in its modern form during the mid-1990s in Kenya and later spread to the United States and the United Kingdom. Kalpop music has found a home to a growing fan base and with a number of locally established as well as emerging Kalpop bands (there are over thirteen active local Kalpop bands in Nairobi alone) further cementing this genre by engaging in different as well as mutually organised Kalpop themed events.
DON SANTO, Badman Killa, Blessed Paul, Cash B, Jay Nuclear, Rekless, G-Youts (Washu B and Nicki Mulla), Sleek Whizz, Chizei, are among the many artists playing Kalpop music in Kenya.
There is a growing interest in other genres of music such as house, Trap Music, and drum and bass. Acts like Just A Band Skilz have also dabbled in numerous alternative genres. The growth of Kenyan Trap Music has been recently popularized by artist like Ekko Dydda & artists from Janeson Recordings. Neo-soul music has also gained a huge audience with recurrent events such as Blankets and Wine promoting upcoming Neo-soul bands and artistes such as Sage, Antoneosol, Sarah Mitaru Sauti Sol and Dela the neo-soul music scene in Kenya is slowly growing. Genres such as Genge with artists such as Jua Cali and Nonini acting as ambassadors of this genre. In 2019, a new music genre emerged in Nairobi referred to as Gengeton. Gengeton was a huge success. However, due to the quarantine in 2020 as a result of COVID 19 pandemic, Gengetone musicians such as Boondocks Gang were unable to perform, affecting the earlier success.
Genres such as Kapuka also have an audience with acts such as Nameless, the late Esir, and the late K-rupt sampling from these genres. The Kenyan music scene regards itself as diverse, but some in the scene do launch criticism at what they perceive as a lack of musical originality.
Of late a massive resurgence has occurred in the industry with musical groups such as Sauti Sol receiving global acclaim.
Kenya's diverse ethnic groups each have their own folk music traditions, though most have declined in popularity in recent years as gospel music became more popular. The Turkana people of the north, the Bajuni, Akamba, Borana, Chuka, Gusii, Kikuyu, Luhya and Lu, the Maasai and the related Samburu and the Mijikenda ("nine tribes") of the eastern coast are all found within the borders of Kenya.
The traditional music of Mauritius is known as sega music, though reggae, zouk, soukous and other genres are also popular, but the latter genres do not originate from Mauritius, despite famous local singers such as Kaya, who successfully combined Sega Music Reggae Music to create Mauritian Seggae. Well-known traditional sega singers from Mauritius include Ti Frére, Marlene Ravaton, Serge Lebrasse, Michel Legris and Fanfan.
Musicians in Mauritius are quite talented and through the years Mauritian music has evolved to international standards. There are many jazz and blues artists around the island. Sega, seggae and reggae remain the most popular produced music in Mauritius amongst Mauritian artists. Thanks to a decent Internet connection nowadays we see more evolved artists performing R&B, hip hop, soul, dubstep, club, techno and other worldwide known music.
The Sega is usually sung in Creole (mother tongue of Mauritians). Many singers had thought of also bringing forward the English version of the Sega songs but later resolved not to proceed with it so as to preserve the uniqueness and cultural richness of the local music of Mauritius.
The original instruments are fast disappearing, making way for the more conventional orchestra ensemble. However, all along the coastal fishing villages, the traditional instruments such as the “Ravanne”, “Triangle”, the “Maravanne” and the traditional guitar are still being used.
By 2015, some of the most known Mauritian sega artists were - Alain Ramanisum, Desiré Francois, Ziakazom. Other top known Mauritian artists are Kaka Zulu and The Prophecy.
The sega is one of the most popular form of music and dance of Mauritius. The traditional instrumentation includes the ravann, a goat-skin covered drum, the triangle, and the maravann.
It is not clear when sega originated. Most claim that sega music and dance origins are found in the slavery epoch, but research has not established this as a fact. Nowadays, Mauritians sing sega as a form of self-expression. Rural forms of music include Mauritian bhojpuri songs, kawals, that date from the epoch of indentured labour and remained popular in Mauritian villages but are now fast disappearing.
There have been many groups that have been formed that fuse these two as well as others that have a deeper connection to the roots of each genre. Cassiya is an example of a group that has become popular not only in Mauritius but also in the neighboring islands such as Reunion. Their single "Mo fami Peser" gives us an idea of how life has evolved for the black indentured laborer post-slavery. It tells about how life as a fisherman becomes more difficult as the seas become more polluted and even though they tried to find a normal city job, they still prefer peaceful life of a fisherman. It remains one of their most successful and loved singles.
Indian immigrants have brought many of their own styles of music and dance, along with instruments like the sitar and tabla. Mauritian-based Bhojpuri music has always been popular with people of Indian-descent, but is now gaining mainstream appeal through the work of artists such as The Bhojpuri Boys and Neeraj Gupta Mudhoo. Their fusion of bhojpuri lyrics, sega beats, and more traditional Indian, as well as Bollywood-style, music has won the hearts of many Mauritians and given rise to major hits such as "Langaroo" (by The Bhojpuri Boys). Chinese immigrants have also infused Mauritian culture with elements from distinctly Chinese musical traditions.
Rock music has recently become very popular in Mauritius, many bands have become famous, including XBreed Supersoul, Feedback, Skeptikal, Kelp, Reborn Orlean which is nearer to metal/hard rock. In 2018, with the advent of the Underground Rock Festival initiative, many other bands such as Apostrophe, Devived, UnMind , Revolt and King of None have started to get mainstream recognition.
Sega (French: Séga) is one of the major music genres of Mauritius and Réunion. The other genres common in Mauritius are its fusion genre Seggae and Bhojpuri songs while in Réunion there is also seggae and maloya. It has origins in the music of slaves as well as their descendants Mauritian Creole people and is usually sung in Mauritian Creole or Réunionese Creole. Sega is also popular on the islands of Agaléga and Rodrigues as well as Seychelles, though the music and dances differ and it is sung in these islands' respective creole languages. In the past, the Sega music was made only with traditional instruments like ravanne and triangle, it was sung to protest against injustices in the Mauritian society, this particular version of the Sega is known as Santé engagé. Other types of Sega (Traditional Mauritian Sega, Sega tambour Chagos, Sega tambour of Rodrigues Island) have been included in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage lists.
The music's traditional form was largely improvised and intensely emotional and expressed the tribulations of a subjugated, initially enslaved, people. It is primarily dance music but was also used for dirges and as part of traditional exorcisms.
The lyrics of sega music usually relate to the lives of the inhabitants; they do not usually relate to the musicians' ancestral homeland.
Sega is danced without the feet ever leaving the ground. Instead, the rest of the body moves.
Sega music originated among the slave populations of Mauritius, it then appeared in Réunion and later spread throughout the Seychelles. It is usually in 6/8 meter and has an associated dance form.
Sega's exact origins outside the islands are unknown. However, it is understood to have Afro-Malagasy roots and be a fusion of African or Malagasy music with European music. The European influence includes folk dance music like polka, waltz and quadrilles.
Gatan Benoit suggested that sega came from Madagascar and Boswell notes there may be a link between sega and famadihana, a Merina death ritual. Arago instead identifies it with (t)chéga from Mozambique. He states that it is similar to the fandango and chica (dance) from Brazil whose origins are in African music from Mozambique and Angola. It was termed "African" by sega musician Jacques Cantin.
Sega was for long looked down upon because it was the music of slaves. It was also looked down upon by the Catholic Church, which was not keen on its association with sexuality and alcohol.
Until the Mauritian Ti Frère became popular in the 1960s, sega was only played in private places. A particularly big turning point was his performance at the Night of the Sega at Mount Le Morne on 30 October 1964. It is now considered the national music of Mauritius and not restricted by ethnicity.
Sega is now popular across the islands of Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoros, Mayotte and Rodrigues, along with parts of Madagascar. In its modern form, sega is combined with genres like jazz, zouk, and its fusion genre with reggae known as Seggae. Elements of African music have been added to sega since the 1980s.
Santé engagé is a genre of Mauritian music which consists of singing protest songs. It is a way to protest against injustices through music. The genre mixes traditional Mauritian sega with Indian influences.
Seggae is a fusion of sega with reggae, a kind of Jamaican popular music that is very popular across sega's range. Seggae musicians include Ras Natty Baby, Sonny Morgan and the man seen as being the founder, Kaya. Kaya, whose real name is Joseph Reginald Topize, was at the height of his career in 1999 when he was found dead in a prison cell. Riots followed soon after causing one of the major social upheavals in Mauritius. Kaya's music is, however, still very popular and has inspired contemporary musicians to expand the Seggae genre.
In Réunion, sega is relatively slow, and is danced by couples who are not as physically close as on Mauritius. There is some confusion as to the usage of the words maloya and sega. What was called sega in historical accounts from previous centuries is similar to what is nowadays called maloya. The word "sega", on the other hand, is used to describe the fusion genre of the Afro-Malagasy and the European.
Traditional Rodriguan sega is Sega tambour, where the drum is more prominent. Sega tambour is considered to be truer to the origins of sega than Mauritian sega, due to Rodrigue's geographical isolation. The accordion groups of Rodrigues, segakordeon, include European folk dance music such as polkas, quadrilles, waltzes and Scottish reels. Rodrigue music is extremely swift compared to other varieties. These sega tambours are sung mostly by women and are danced only by one couple at a time, accompanied by clapping or the use of improvised percussion instruments like table legs and glasses. The accordion was not being played so much by young people but an initiative involving the European Union are giving accordion lessons to young Rodriguans.
One form of Seychellois sega is called Moutya and is similar to Réunionnais sega. Seychellois music is influenced by Western ballads, and especially country music. Increasingly, Reggae, Rock, hip hop, jazz, electronic dance music, house music and pop style Seychellois music have become popular locally as well as internationally with the wider Seychellois community.
The Chagos Islanders also had their own variety of sega before they were deported from the islands to make way for the American military base Diego Garcia.
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: February 2022.
Photo Credits: (1) Anuang'a Fernando & Maasai Vocals, (2) Souad Massi, (3) Abdelli , (4) Imarhan, (5) Rachid Taha, (6) Cheb Mami, (7) Mamadou Diabate, (8) Kady Diarra, (9) Ezé Wendtoin, (10) Nina Ogot, (11) Fadhilee Itulya, (12) Naomi Wachira, (13) Steve Ouma, (14) Maasai Music, (15) Christine Salem, (16) Sakili, (17) Serge Lebrasse, (18) Rene Lacaille (unknown/website).