For many of the African countries that declared independence from colonial rule in the 1950s and 60s, the post-independence era was characterised by a radical restructuring of social and political life. In some nations such as Guinea, political self-realisation went hand-in-hand with cultural renaissance — with music firmly at the heart of the project. Guinea, led by Sékou Touré, was emblematic of the approach adopted by many of the predominantly left-wing governments of the continent. Musical traditions that had often been marginalised by the colonial powers were now boosted to help shape the political climate of the self-rule era.
This mixtape has been put together by Tocantins, a record collector and occasional DJ based in London, whose interests focus on the popular musics of West Africa and Latin America. Here he attempts to foreground the role of music during that period of African self-determination. In so doing he draws from a variety of different cultures and times. Opening with Bembeya Jazz National’s Le Chemin du P.D.G., the mixtape explores the optimism of the 1960s (Grand Kalle et l'African Jazz’s Indépendance Cha-Cha) and the celebratory fervour of Marxist-Leninist funk (Les Volcans' 26 Octobre 1976 A Lakossa) along with the paranoias of the Cold War (William Onyeabor’s Atomic Bomb, Zao’s Ancien Combattant) and the distress of civil war (Santos Junior's Invasores de Angola). Also included are some more contemporary reflections on the legacies of two of the key figures of African independence (Boss Mike’s Thomas Sankara, Obrafour’s Kwame Nkrumah).
Bembeya Jazz National, Le Chemin du PDG (Guinea, 1971)
Orchestre National Les Volcans De La Gendarmerie Republique Populaire Du Benin, 26 Octobre 1976 A Lakossa (Benin, 1976)
Grand Kalle et l'African Jazz, Indépendance Cha-Cha (Democratic Republic of Congo, 1960)
Santos Junior, Invasores de Angola (Angola, date unknown)
William Onyeabor, Atomic Bomb (Nigeria, 1978)
L'Orchestre National "A" De La République Du Mali, Janfa (Mali, 1970)
Boss Mike, Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso, 2014)
Balla Et Ses Balladins, Lumumba (Congo, 1974)
Zao, Ancien Combattant (France, 1984)
Ɔbrafoɔ, Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana, 1999)
The French Have Gone (Mali, date unknown)
Zeca (Angola, 1975)
This special report coincides with the Red Africa season running at Calvert 22 Foundation, from February 4th to April 3rd, Wed-Sun 12pm-6pm, 22 Calvert Avenue, London E2 7JP. Further details at Calvert22.org
Want more stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter here:
More from Music
Zeré Asylbek called out gender disparity in Kyrgyzstan and she's only getting started
Does a music festival in a desert offer hope for cultural reform in Uzbekistan?