Our many hours of research and writing is often backdropped by the music we’ve pulled off of our virtual shelf. We’ve featured just a few of the many talented West African musicians, singers, and songwriters that continue to inspire us.
The list is prone to change depending on our musical mood, so check back for updates!
Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a Tuareg guitarist and songwriter, whose lyrics in Tamasheq, accompanied by electrifying guitar rifts, capture the spirit of resistance and rebellion in his native Niger.
From a long lineage of kora players, Diabaté not only performs the traditional music of Mali but also fills his performances with improvisational flourishes, experimenting with a wide range of other influences, such as jazz and flamenco.
Born in the Ivory Coast to Malian parents and raised with the Wassoulou song style that is considered one of the main ancestors of American blues, Diawara, both singer and songwriter, expands on her heritage, transcending borders and the barriers of time.
A kora virtuoso who comes from a prestigious West African griot family, this vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer from the Gambia is a modern day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition.
Hailing from Kaolack, Senegal, Keur Gui (“The house” in Wolof) is one of the most visible and socially engaged rap groups on the hip-hop scene in Africa.
Musician, singer, songwriter, Habib Koité, from the Khassonké griot lineage, has a unique approach to guitar-playing, often tuning his instrument to the pentatonic scale and playing on open strings as if playing a kamale n’goni.
Born in Podor, Senegal into the fisherman’s caste, the odds were against Maal’s breaking into music, the exclusive domain of storytellers and singers from the ancient griot lineage. Yet, through honing a highly distinctive sound fusing traditional West African music with elements of pop, he reached international acclaim.
With the civil unrest in Timbuktu, this ambitious young desert-blues band took refuge in Bamako and in their “music in exile”.
Ali Farka Touré
The similarity of Ali Farka Touré’s guitar-playing style, though accompanied by Songhay, Fulfulde, Tamasheq or Bambara lyrics, to the American John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic blues style, brought international collaboration and recognition.
Creating music with traditional instruments like the balafon, n’goni, and kora, layered with acoustic guitar and electric bass, Traoré’s style is deeply personal reflecting both innovation and tradition.
Tinariwen, the plural of “ténéré” meaning “desert”, is a name that expresses the aspirations of these poet-guitarists and that of their people, the Kel Tamashek or Touareg of the southern Sahara.
Dark Suburb & Wiyaala
Dedicated to the victims of the Fire and Flood disaster in Accra on June 3, 2015, this video is a Ghanaian musical collaboration under the direction of Deon Wills.
Dark Suburb is an alternative rock band deliberately integrating the typically West African culture of masquerades into their image.
Noella Wiyaala is a singer-songwriter, composing lyrics in her native Sissala and Waale and English, often combining all three languages within her songs.
Last updated on October 4, 2018.