Music is the voice of a people’s culture. African music is the sound of the continent's culture.
While every community in Africa has its own kind of music, there are certain countries that have more established music centers than others.
We are going to consider African cities where music is dominant in terms of music infrastructure and the culture of music as a people’s way of life. Here we go!
Ouagadougou is the capital city of Burkina Faso. Baptized by the legendary Thomas Sankara, this city is famous for its traditional music setup. However, you can still find a blend of modern music, in addition to traditional musical entertainment.
Ouagadougou is also known for its spectacular cultural displays, especially traditional clothing. Some of the popular music venues include Le Bateau Ivre, Le Calypso, Dancing Acapulco, Byblos, and The Mask, among others.
Accra is the capital city of Ghana. It is the original home of the Pan-Africanist movement, established by Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.
Renowned musical artists that have made Accra their base include Ria Boss, Rvdical The Kid, Alex Wondergem, FOKN Bois, Gafacci, among others. Some of the popular music venues in Ghana include Clear Spice, Chez Afrique, Kona Café & Grill, Labadi Beach, +233 Jazz Bar, Plotseven, Champs Sports Bar & Grill, Republic Bar & Grill, Rockstone’s Office, among others.
In case you are one of those who loves a mix of cultural music and contemporary Western music, Alliance Francaise and Geote Institute are some of the few places. Some of the renowned cultural groups in Accra include Afrochella.
Abidjan is the capital city of Ivory Coast. Ivory is the most populous French-speaking city in West Africa. French has a great cultural influence in Ivory Coast. As such, music in Abidjan has been greatly influenced by French.
There is a great Franco-African fusion when it comes to music. Indeed, Abidjan is often referred to as Africa’s Paris. Many big names in Ivory Coast started off their music career in Abidjan and later on relocated to Paris to make an international appeal.
Luanda is the capital city of Angola. It is one of the fastest developing cities in Africa, thanks to its booming oil and diamond industries that have financed its rapid expansion.
However, it being the most expensive city in Africa, plus being predominantly Portuguese speaking, it has discouraged a lot of musicians from other parts of Africa. Angola is one of the few countries in Africa that are Portuguese speaking.
As such, its music is heavily influenced by the Portuguese dialect and culture. Semba is the traditional music in Angola. However, it has undergone a lot of Portuguese influence such that you can hardly distinguish it from the Brazilian Samba.
Apart from Semba, other music genres that have native influence include Kizomba, lKiduro, Kilapanda, Zouk, and Merengue.
6. Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia. It is also the capital city of Africa – being home to the African Union (AU) headquarters. Addis Ababa is probably the oldest city in North-Eastern Africa.
Ethiopians have a well-established ancient culture pre-dating the Biblical times. As such, compared to most Sub-Saharan cities, Ethiopia has a very authentic culture that was less influenced by colonialism.
It is the only country in Africa that was neither enslaved nor colonized. Ethiopians as a people are very proud of their culture. This can be observed in their music, religion, language, and even form of writing.
Lagos, though not the capital city, is the biggest city in Nigeria, and so far the biggest in West Africa. This coastal city boasts of being a melting pot of West African cultures.
From music to film, Lagos has cut out its special place in West Africa. Although it faces competition from the capital city, Abuja, in terms of infrastructure, Lagos is more livable than Abuja. Thus, more people find it a great place for leisure and entertainment.
Dakar is the cultural capital of West Africa. Through deliberate effort by Senegal’s first president, Leopold Senghor, to promote music and Senegalese culture, Dakar became a prominent city with musicians from neighboring countries finding it a welcoming music base.
Famously billed as the ‘City in the Sun.’ Nairobi is not only the capital city of Kenya but also the largest city in Eastern and Central Africa. As such, it has a reasonably good music infrastructure.
Most upcoming musicians from East and Central Africa find it more convenient to establish a base in Nairobi as they nurture their skills and talents. In Nairobi, you can get famous names from DRC, Tanzania, Uganda, and Somalia carrying out their music venture.
Chibalonza of DRC, Jose Chameleon of Uganda, and Diamond Platinumz of Tanzania are just but a few of the recent ones to have a base in Nairobi.
Johannesburg is a melting pot of cultures, predominantly African and European cultures. During the long period of Apartheid, Johannesburg used to be predominantly a European music capital in Africa.
However, after the end of Apartheid, Indigenous African music started permeating every facet of Johannesburg. Though there are not so many big music names coming from Johannesburg, this capital city has a world-class music infrastructure.
As such, most music recordings by big names in Southern and Eastern Africa are done in Johannesburg. Big music names from South Africa include Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Lucky Dube, among many others.
These are twin cities only separated by a river that forms the national border between these two countries. It is common to have musicians crisscrossing from one side to the other for music production and live performances.
Sometimes, it is hard to distinguish whether a given musician is from Kinshasa or Brazzaville. Kinshasa is known as the Lingala capital of Africa due to the dominance of the Lingala music (a music genre that blends French, and local dialects).
Some of the famous musicians from Kinshasa-Brazzaville include Franklin Boukaka, Franco Matiadi, Tabu Ley, Kofi Olomide, among many others. The music blends naturally into the indigenous lifestyle of the people of Congo. It is the traditional way of life that is expressed in almost every other social activity.
The final note
You cannot meaningfully talk about Africa without mentioning its unique kind of music. With over 5,000 ethnic groups, Africa’s music beats are diverse.
Nonetheless, visiting music scenes in Africa’s capitals is the best way to have a one-pot recipe for a fused collection of dozens of those cultures in each respective region.