So not only was April’s Minicine at the Mills event the first in our new African Cinema season, not only did Benda Bilili! become our highest scoring feature ever, and not only did we learn that Woody can’t write with chalk, but we also played our latest playlist, as the audience arrived, for the first time.
This season we’ve compiled a list of some of Africa’s biggest selling artists and tracks, and each with its own distinctly visual music video.
Baaba Maal ‘Yele (Hamady Bogle)’ – With a penchant for fusing genres such as ragga, salsa and Breton harp music, Baaba Maal is arguably the most famous Senegalese musician other than Youssou N’Dour – who we’ll be discussing shortly. Setting the tone for this playlist ‘Yele’, like much African music and cinema, deals with educating the listener on the history of the continent – which in this case is also reflected in a bright and vibrant video. Maal has appeared on the Black Hawk Down movie soundtrack and worked with the bands Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and One Giant Leap among others.
Cesária Évora ‘Angola’ – Known as ‘The Barefoot Diva’, Cape Verdean Évora was a popular morna artist. Unlike the vivid colour palette of many other videos in this playlist, this video makes use of high contrast and striking lighting to bring it to life.
Mory Kanté ‘Yéké Yéké’ – Upon its release in 1987, this was the first African single to sell over one million copies worldwide. As for the video, we can’t quite figure out what’s going on as much of it is occupied by a close up of Kanté’s face but it’s still one heck of a tune! The Guinean artist’s music has subsequently been used in several Bollywood films including ones starring screen legends Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt.
Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry ‘ 7 Seconds’ – Directed by French filmmaker Stéphane Sedanoui this video is all about mood over narrative. The seven seconds referenced in the song’s title refer to the first seconds of a newborn babies life when they are most unaware of the worlds problems; war, racism, hatred, sexism. The video depicts faces of all races and ages passing each other in the street without repercussion or conflict. Rolling Stone has described N’Dour as the most famous African singer alive and his popularity in his home country of Senegal has resulted in him running for president in 2012.
Tinariwen ‘Toumast Tincha’ – Meaning ‘deserts’ in Tamasheq, Tinariwen are a band of musicians from the Sahara region of Mali who came together over the course of ten years whilst living in Algerian and Libyan refugee camps. Early in their career they would record music for free to anyone who had a blank cassette tape. To Western viewers this mood piece for ‘Toumast Tincha’ may usual as the action occurs from right to left. In Western cinema we read action from left to right, much like we would read a book. However, Arabic is read right to left and therefore much Arab cinema is read that way too. Impressive considering their signature sound, the band had never heard American blues music until embarking on a 2001 international tour. In 2012 they won a Grammy for Best World Music Album.
Die Antwoord ‘Baby’s on Fire’ – South African rap-ravers Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for ‘the Answer’) have grown a strong cult following since they formed in 2008 thanks to their infectious music, zef style and use of shock tactics. “…you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake [people] up.” Directed by frontman NINJA and filmmaker Terence Neale, ‘Baby’s on Fire’ is filled with the bands own dry wit and subversive humour. Listen out for singer Yolandi Visser name-dropping acclaimed filmmaker Neill Blomkamp – we’ll be screening his first feature District 9 in June.
‘Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi ‘Ndakuvara’ – With his distinct husky voice, this Zimbabwean musician is considered the most famous to emerge from his country. This video looks at the relationship between a young man and the son leaves home and falls into trouble.
Cairokee feat. Souad Massi ‘Agmal Ma Andy’ – For a ‘rock band’ this is a rather tame yet contemplative offering from the ten-year-old Egyptian outfit. Directed by MK and featuring Algerian singer/songwriter Souad Massi, the video adopts a simple yet engaging minimalist style.
Staff Benda Bilili ‘Osali Mabe’ – We couldn’t very well have a list of African artists and not include the stars of our first film in this season, could we? In case you missed our Benda Bilili! screening, Staff Benda Bilili is a collective of Congolese street musicians – homeless and disabled due to polio – who, after meeting two French filmmakers, spend five years recording their first album which takes them to Europe, a tour of musical festival and the adulation of crowds wherever they go. This video shows the band during the recording of their latest album.
Femi Kuti ‘The World is Changing’ – The last video in our playlist is the first to make strong use of graphics and typography to spell out the message of the song’s lyrics. But like many of the videos in our playlist it depicts another side of African life. Femi Kuti is the eldest son of Nigerian afrobeat pioneer and one-time Ginger Baker collaborator Fela Kuti.
You can also listen to the playlist, and our previous lists, over at 8tracks now.
So what do you guys think, any favourites? Let us know in the comments.