Three New African Albums You Need To Hear

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, November 7, 2017 06:04pm | Post a Comment

by Michael Henning

Here is a special spotlight on three excellent new African albums that were recently released. Each of them is available at all three of Amoeba Music's stores and on

Tony Allen, The SourceTony Allen - The Source (Blue Note)

Tony Allen was the drummer and musical director for Fela Kuti's Africa '70 from 1969-1979, a decade that saw the prolific ensemble release an almost unbelievable 32 albums, including all of their strongest material. He is responsible for inventing the signature Afrobeat rhythm and sound, and contributed his unique brand of propulsive percussion to masterpieces such as Shakara, Roforofo Fight, Zombie, He Miss Road, Up Side Down,Yellow Fever, Kalakuta Show, No Agreement, Opposite People, along with several others. Very little live footage exists of Tony Allen leading Fela'a group, but this 1978 performance from Germany is a high-quality glimpse at what a formidable live band they were at the height of their powers.

Now 77 years old, Allen still plays with the vigor of someone 50 years younger, managing to sound both extremely tight and also suitably loose on this new record. He doesn't miss a beat, carrying the eclectic array of compositions with his fantastically funky rhythms. On top of that, he somehow manages to make his extraordinary playing sound effortless, like he is barely trying. The tunes themselves range from Afrobeat stompers to more laid back, jazzy grooves. Here is a cool short album teaser video that shows just how fluid his flow still is...

Antibalas, Where the gods are in peaceAntibalas - Where The Gods Are in Peace (Daptone)

Afrobeat didn't die when Fela died in 1997. If anything, its spirit is even stronger and more widespread today, via a number of bands that have carried it forward into the new millennium and beyond. Brooklyn's now legendary Antibalas are probably the best known and most successful of the modern crop of Afrobeat bands, and for good reason. They've been at it for almost 20 years now, and have released six excellent studio albums along the way. Their first album in five years, titled Where The Gods Are in Peace, is out now on the always reliable Daptone Records. The now venerable Brooklyn label is also home to The Budos Band, Lee Fields, The Frightnrs, The Sugarman 3, and the recently departed duo of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. They shared this radio edit of a track from their new record a few months ago:

Antibalas have also continued to tour and play festivals, becoming one of the best live bands to catch for those who want to dance to a truly funky supergroup. They always get the crowd moving, and I highly recommend going to see them live if you get the chance. Here is a video of the band playing a free live show at Amoeba Music in Hollywood just a few weeks ago!

Msafiri Zawose - Uhamiaji (Soundway)

The Zawose family hails from the city of Bagamoyo in the east African country of Tanzania. They are members of the Gogo tribe, who boast one of the richest musical traditions on the notably fertile continent. Legendary musician Dr. Hukwe Zawose, who passed away in 2003, was a true master musician who sang and played multiple instruments, including the illimba (large thumb-piano), the izeze (multi-stringed bowed instrument), and the filimbi (a type of traditional flute). He recorded a number of albums, including two releases for Peter Gabriel's Real World label. One of those was a collaboration with Michael Brook, who also worked with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, David Sylvian and Robert Fripp, Jon Hassell, U. Srinivas, and U2.

Here's a track from Hukwe Zawose and the Master Musicians of Tanzania:

Msafiri Zawose is the fifth son of Hukwe Zawose, and he has been carrying on the legacy that his father began decades ago, finding new ways to keep the traditional music fresh. The good folks at Soundway Records have released his new album Uhamiaji, a wonderfully rich modern take on the timeless Gogo sound. He worked with UK-based producer Sam Jones to create an album that brings his music into the future while also maintaining the vital essence of this ancient tradition. Witness the thunderous groove of this lead single from the new record...

As you can see, the African section at Amoeba contains many gems, and these new albums are just three of many. Enjoy!

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Michael Henning (9), Tony Allen (3), Fela Kuti (13), Antibalas (4), Msafiri Zawose (2), Hukwe Zawose (1), Africa (20), African Music (9), World Music (146)