Best African Musicians & Vocalists – Top 15

African musicians

The African continent has given birth to some of the most talented musicians that the world has ever seen. Musicians from the different countries have created different styles of music and have brought existing genres to the forefront.

These musicians have worked equally hard to achieve international recognition and to improve the lives of their brothers and sisters.

Here is a list of fifteen of Africa’s most influential and successful musicians.

#15 – D’Banj

Nationality: Nigerian

D’Banj is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and harmonica maestro. His most popular hit, Oliver Twist, propelled him to the top of many African and UK Charts. The Nigerian artiste continues to collect awards with his latest being MTV Africa 2015 Evolution Music Awards.

#14 – Fally Ipupa

Nationality: Congolese

Congolese singer, songwriter, guitarist, dancer, Fally Ipupa or The Great One, is currently signed on to the largest record company in the world, Universal (Label) AZ.

.His first solo album Droit Chemin was certified gold for having sold over 100, 000 records.

#13 – Gito Baloi

Nationality: Mozambique

Mozambique-born Gito Baloi was an African musician known for his soulful voice and dexterity with the bass guitar. He began his career touring with the group Pongolo. He later formed a band called Tananas with three other musicians. The band became known globally and they traveled the world playing at concerts.

Baloi collaborated with several artists to release albums and singles. The album Beyond was posthumously released in 2008. In 1986 he received a South African Music Award for best contemporary jazz.

#12 – Zahara

Nationality: South African

Powerhouse Bulelwa Mkutukana, better known as Zahara, shook the foundations of the South African music scene when she released her first album titled Loliwe. Loliwe sold out within three days and in nineteen days was certified double platinum by the South African Recording Industry.

At the 2012 South African Music Awards, Zahara copped eight wards Since then she has produced four more albums and has been the recipient of several other awards.

#11- K’naan

Nationality: Somali

Keinan Abdi Warsame, K’naan, is a Somali-born Canadian singer, poet, and songwriter. He and his parents escaped to North America when K’naan came close to death one too many times during the civil war that was taking place at that time.

K’naan  received global attention when his song Wavin Flag was used in Coco-Cola’s advertisement for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  He uses his fame to bring attention to the plights of Somalis and the conditions that exist in South Africa

#10 – Oumou Sangare

Nationality: Malian

Grammy-award winning Oumou Sangare used her voice as a child to earn money for her family. In nursery school, she was performing for 6000 people at the Omnisport Stadium. At sixteen, she toured with the percussion group Djoliba.

At the age of twenty-one, Sangare had already produced an album with one of the most famous musicians in Mali, Amadou Ba Guindo. The album, Moussoulou, was well received with over 200,000 copies sold.

#9 – Hugh Masekela

Nationality: South African

Bring Him Back Home and Grazing in the Grassare two well-known songs of South African musician Hugh Masekela. Masekela, in a bid to escape from the riot and massacres in his home country eventually settled in the United States.

In the United States, the two times Grammy award winning musician cemented his place as a jazz virtuoso and talented trumpeter releasing chart toppers and selling over four million records.

#8 – Koffi Olomide

Nationality: Congolese

With a Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics and a Masters in Mathematics, one would think that Koffi Olomide was on his way to becoming a business executive or lecturer. His love for music, however, saw him forming his own band, the Quartier Latin International and establishing a solo career as a singer.

He has been the recipient of several awards throughout his career and his band Quartier Latin International will celebrate its 31st anniversary in November.

#7 –  Salif Keita

Nationality: Malian

Born an albino, Salif Keita was abandoned by his family because albinism meant bad luck in his culture. As a solo artist, Keita has released over ten albums in the Afro-pop genre. His album La Diffèrence won him the Victoires de la Musique Award for Best World Music in 2010

The man dubbed the “Golden Voice of Africa,” was the recipient of a National Order award from the Guinean president, Sèkou Toure in 1977.

#6 – Femi Kuti

Nationality: Nigerian

Son of afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, Femi Keuti started his career playing in his father’s band. He soon left the nest to start his own band, Positive Force. One of his most popular albums Fight to Win was a collaboration between him and American artists like Common, Mos Def and Jaguar.

His album Africa for Africa gave him two Grammy nominations. This Nigerian singer, songwriter multi-instrumental musician uses the stage to advocate for the poor and disadvantaged.

#5 – Khaled

Nationality: Algerian

Khaled Hadj Ibrahim, Khaled, is the most well- known Algerian singer. The singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist began his music career as a teen. He is most known for his song Didi (1993) which he performed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The King of Rai has had ten albums certified diamond, platinum and gold and has sold over 80 million albums. His album C’est la vie (2012) topped charts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Canada.

#4 – Angelique Kidjo

Nationality: Beninoise

Africa’s Premier Diva, Africa’s Greatest Living Diva are just a few of the titles that have been bestowed on Beninoise Angelique Kidjo. Throughout her career as a musician, she has recorded a number of albums and singles that have topped charts across many continents.

Her album Oyo won her the Grammy Award for the Best Contemporary World Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. Four years later, her album Eve won the Best World Music Album Grammy Award.

#3 – Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Nationality: South African

Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a South African musician that has blazed a trail across Africa as a singer and humanitarian. Chaka Chaka has released hits after hits and award-winning albums. Chakka Chakka was the first black child to appear on South African television.

The Princess of Africa went on to perform at sold out concerts and in front of world leaders like Queen Elizabeth II and Bill Clinton. A very active humanitarian, Chaka Chaka represents the Global Fund to Fight Aids, the United Nations and has established her own foundation, The Princess of Africa.

#2 – Manu Dibango

Nationality: Cameroonian

In 1972 Cameroonian saxophonist, Manu Dibango, released Soul Makoosa, a musical piece that brought him international recognition. Soul Makoosa rhythm later featured in legendary Micheal Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something” and Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”.

Dibango began his career as a member of the very popular African Jazz band that brought a new style of music to Congo. Since then he has traveled the world and worked with musicians like Fela Kuti, Sly & Robbie and Don Cherry. Manu Dibango has left an indelible mark on the musical landscape of Africa.

#1 – Youssou N’dour

Nationality: Senegalese

Senegalese musician Youssou N’dour is said to be the most internationally acclaimed artiste out of Africa. N’dour’s musical talent allowed him to create Mbalax, a style of music that is now popular in Senegal.

Grammy-award winning Youssou N’Dour has collaborated with the likes of Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. N’Dour has composed operas, acted in films and have been the subject of many films and documentaries. The talented musician continues to record and perform songs and is an active humanitarian in Africa.

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Toni-Ann is currently a university student who dabbles in Economics during the day and unleashes her creative writing skills during the night. Her dream is to see the seven wonders of the world. But due to the unavailability of several resources, she travels through the pages of the books she consumes on a daily basis.