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20 janvier 2009

A Column About African Pop Music

John Doran, The Quietus, January 16th, 2009

A Column About African Pop Music: First Up, Nigeria And Mali

The Quietus starts a new regular column on the music of Africa with a look at the sounds coming out of Nigeria and Mali

In order to kickstart this irregular column about pop music either from or directly inspired by the African continent, it's necessary to cover some of the amazing reissues and new albums that have been out in the last few months - if only to convey something of the Kanutian task at hand.

Or perhaps this should be described as Sisyphean - as in pushing a boulder up a hill for all eternity. If someone asks you what sort of music that you're into and you say 'African', it's pretty much like being asked what you want to eat in a restaurant and saying: “Oh, you know, some food." It is this bewildering panoply of taxonomically confusing sub genres and categories that probably allowed the survival of the understandable but totally useless category 'World Music' for so long. As much as the manic culture of album reissues might be keen to ignore the saturation of the market in music; the Foppification of record collections and the disastrous cultural strip mining effected by peer to peer file sharing, in this arena it is creating sizeable waves of interest in wider pop and rock fans.

This would have been unlikely ten years ago and unthinkable twenty years ago. Mainstream perceptions of Africa as a sonic continent are no longer seen as a beam of light blasted out of Jon Hassell's trumpet, filtered through Peter Gabriel's goatee beard, refracted through Paul Simon's spectacles and bounced off Brian Eno's big shiny head.

This internet/reissue culture has allowed the vast African landmass to slowly fragment and shatter - in front of our eyes, not just into composite countries, but into cities and towns and across class and religious divides. Again, I've got to stress that if you're a specialist consumer, you'll probably find this tedious to say the least but for the rest of us, seeing these new musical vistas, suggesting themselves, slowly feathering into view, then finally achieving crystal clarity is magnificent to say the least.(....)

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