50 Essential African Albums (Part 2 of 3)
A special feature for paid subscribers to The Honest Broker
Here’s the second installment (of three) in my survey of 50 essential African recordings—a special bonus for paid subscribers to The Honest Broker.
Below you will find my guide to another 17 mind-expanding African albums, listed here in chronological order. For part one, click here.
18. Various Artists: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (1985)
A year later Paul Simon would draw on some of these same indestructible grooves for his megahit Graceland album. But back in 1985, your best introduction to the emerging sounds of South Africa was this off-the-grid album, a project of musical insurgency that introduced many Western listeners to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mahlathini, and other artists. The album presents African music at a crossroads, with one foot in the vernacular sounds of the past, and other stepping into the commercial stylings of modern dance music.
19. Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)
Some will give me grief, in large heaping helpings, for including this album by an American pop star. But I refuse to be convicted by a jury of my peers. . . . because Graceland is a genuine masterpiece, a cross-cultural musical dialogue of epic proportions, and it did more than any other recording of the century to turn African music into a mass market phenomenon. The South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo became world-famous as a result of its involvement in Graceland, and more than a dozen other African musicians participated in the sessions. The music speaks for itself, but the numbers testify to its impact. Graceland sold 16 million copies, and is one of the most popular albums of all time.