Posts Tagged ‘ravi shankar’
The January/February 2017 (#124) issue of Songlines is now on sale!
Our cover star is Ravi Shankar, the late Indian sitarist whose final work, Sukanya, an opera written for his wife, gets its world premiere in the UK in May 2017.
Other features include our round-up of the Best Albums of 2016; an interview with the Pakistani qawwali group, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali about continuing their uncle Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s legacy; Renata Rosa, the Brazilian singer and rabeca player making her UK debut in January; the Golha Project, archiving pre-revolutionary Iranian music; a Beginner’s Guide to the musical polymath, Nitin Sawhney; plus the latest CD, book and world cinema reviews.
The Top of the World cover CD includes Tanya Tagaq, Anda Union, musicians from The Calais Sessions, Daoirí Farrell and Le TP Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, as well as a guest playlist from the writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot, featuring Chris Wood, Kate Rusby and Moh! Kouyaté.
Every issue is also accompanied by an exclusive 14-track WOMADelaide 25th Anniversary sampler CD, featuring classic tracks by Rokia Traoré, Youssou N’Dour and Mariza, and many more.
To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: songlines.co.uk/subs
This feature originally appeared in the October 2011 (#79) edition of Songlines. Photography [above] by Vincent Limongelli.
Click here to read the Songlines obituary from 2012.
Ravi Shankar The Indian music maestro is now in his 90s, but he’s still an avid fan of new, innovative music, as shown in his choice of artists for Songlines
Ravi Shankar doesn’t need much introduction, especially to readers of Songlines. ‘The godfather of world music’ was how the Beatles’ George Harrison described him. When looking back at his lengthy career, this certainly rings true – he’s done more than any other artist to showcase the music of India to the world. Ravi-ji, as he is affectionately known, has collaborated with everyone from George Harrison and Yehudi Menuhin to Philip Glass and Herbie Hancock.
‘I will keep playing as long as my body lets me, and as long as I’m wanted by my listeners. Because music is the only thing that keeps me going,’ he told The Guardian some years ago. Now 91, performances by the maestro are rare, although he did play at the Barbican in London in July. We’re very fortunate that he’s selected six tracks for Songlines – five of which appear on the CD and a bonus track that can be heard on the podcast. Here he tells us why he’s chosen these particular tracks; how he feels the music scene in India has changed; and how to encourage people to be openminded and explore different types of music.
Music has the power to draw listeners into a common space and time – no matter what their backgrounds, interests and opinions. Audiences come to the music with the mindset that they are going somewhere together and that is a powerful motivator and wellspring for social change. If there is music, there is the possibility of people seeing beyond their immediate wants and needs.
Sadly, I fear that the classical music traditions in India are being lost. Today’s world of media, work, work, work and cell phones make it hard to completely lose yourself to a single dedication. There remains a respect and adoration for the music, but there is not the single-minded dedication to its study.
All I can really say is to listen to everything you can. There are artists who are open and artists who are not, just like audiences. The artists I’ve picked here all have that openness in common. I was thinking recently of a performance I saw of Sting with the Royal Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. I remember thinking that this is an artist with a surprising depth. I was very impressed, and I think it had to do with Sting’s seemingly very open-minded approach to music. It’s a powerful thing, this fearlessness to be open to everything.
These tracks are all inspiring to me, for one reason or another. I will say that I find nearly everything my daughters do to be inspiring. Often it may be because they each approach things so differently from one another, and more importantly, so differently than I do. I find it helpful and enriching to experience new approaches to things you’ve been doing for a long time. All these tracks have that in common for me.
“If there is music, there is the possibility of people seeing beyond their immediate wants and needs”
I remember when Anoushka worked with Karsh [Kale], her being very impressed by his unique restraint. He’s not afraid to use a lot of forces in a minimal way. It creates a very intimate music, so much so that his breathing even becomes part of the orchestration. He is very popular among the youth, although many with more experience in traditional Indian classical music may question this approach. I think it is interesting to take note of how successful he is with that approach, even though I, personally, would not gravitate towards it.
Photography by Bill Wood Photography
I’ve always loved violin and sitar together. They are very different and very similar at the same time. I remember when I wrote and played with Yehudi Menuhin there was a sense that the two instruments would continuously come together at a sort of point and then diverge, weaving a remarkable pattern. The sound created by the sitar and violin is so compatible yet so different, it’s a perfect improvisational match. We aimed to bring more possibilities in the dialogue between the two instruments. Eventually Yehudi and I found out how powerful this match could be when we played the United Nations concert for Human Rights in 1967. I think Anoushka and Joshua [Bell] have such chemistry here. It will be interesting to see what they will do after time has passed, if they record again later in their careers.
What more can one say about Philip Glass? Of course, I was first drawn to Philip by his rhythmic intricacies inspired by Indian music. There is a lot I like about this particular composition. It’s so short, but it is truly amazing as film music. In film, you have limited time to convey an emotional state to a listener. Here, Philip builds such suspense, such tension. Much is due to his ingenious use of non-Western instruments, in this case the didgeridoo – so inspired. I’m also always impressed with film music that is so precisely able to capture the appropriate mood, and with such efficiency. It is not easy to bring a voice to a director’s vision – as I experienced with Satyajit Ray and the Apu trilogy. But when you can come together and find the harmony between sound and vision – it is magic. Philip is gifted at bringing this magic out. I hope he gets his Oscar one day soon.
Nitin [Sawhney] is a brilliant musician and composer. I hear such joy in this tune. Its simplicity is its real strength, just like daybreak itself. So much energy! The pizzicato in the instrumentation combined with his melodic voice is just perfect. I am never bored when listening to his music. It always surprises me!
Norah’s voice has such range of emotion. I think that is what most impresses her listeners: her ability to cover a vast range with seeming simplicity. She has a rare ability to connect with nearly everyone. She is also very intuitive as a collaborator, and of course so is Herbie (who I’ve worked with on several occasions). Both are gifted at seeing where two musical minds must find each other in order to produce something truly memorable. They are wonderful together. And Joni Mitchell is quite a songwriter, so to hear their interpretation of her tune is really something special.
Touring with Anoushka has been one of my life’s great joys. A father often sees his daughter grow up from some distance. This is normal and there is certainly joy and pride in it, however, when on stage with Anoushka, it’s like I’m experiencing her grow as we experience and interact with the music. I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity.
When I hear this track, ‘Red Sun’, I hear Anoushka’s youth in the best way. There is so much energy and experimentation that I think it comes from a try-anything approach. It is something that one sometimes finds harder to achieve as you get older. It’s something I try to be aware of in my own music and when listening to others. Innovation is the only way to keep music alive and here, there is a bold compositional sense, pushing to get what she wants out of conducting. I also admire Anoushka’s drive to bring together very strong and diverse traditions to create something totally new. It isn’t easy but I see her relish in the challenge here, which, of course, makes me happy and reminds me how important challenges are to music.”
Five tracks chosen by Ravi Shankar
‘Daybreak’ from London Underground (Positiv-ID)
Ravi says he never gets bored listening to Sawhney’s music. This track features the classically trained Indian vocalist Faheem Mazhar.
‘Avalanche’ from Cinema (Six Degrees Records)
The UK born and US raised musician has collaborated with Ravi’s daughter Anoushka. Ravi describes Kale’s music as being ‘very intimate’.
‘Car Ride’ from Undertow (Orange Mountain)
Ravi is a big admirer of Glass and his film music, such as this track where he manages to create a great feeling of suspense and tension.
‘Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin’ from At Home With Friends (Sony Music)
‘The sound created by the sitar and violin is so compatible yet so different, it’s a perfect improvisational match’, says Ravi.
‘Red Sun’ from Rise (Angel Records)
‘There is so much energy and experimentation,’ Ravi says of this track by his sitar-playing daughter Anoushka. He describes touring with her as being one of the great joys of his life.
Confused, bewildered and overwhelmed by the mayhem of global sounds? World music is a maze. And what you need is a good map. So here is our A to Z of world music, taking you from Africa Express to Zimbabwe, from Balkan brass to qawwali and from cumbia to WOMAD. Words: Simon Broughton, Jane Cornwell & Nigel Williamson. Illustration: Andy Potts
Many Western pop stars develop a fascination with African music but their interest seldom goes much further than incorporating an Afrobeat rhythm or a Touareg guitar groove into their own work. Blur’s Damon Albarn was determined to take the process to another level with Africa Express, creating an open-door platform to bring together African and Anglo-American musicians. Over the last decade, Africa Express has curated a series of fascinating collaborations, both onstage and on record, as the likes of Paul McCartney, Paul Weller and Roots Manuva have jammed with Amadou & Mariam, Bassekou Kouyaté and countless others, exposing African music to a mainstream rock audience as never before. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, Africa Express Presents Terry Riley’s in C Mali (Transgressive, 2014)
There’s been a big boom in Balkan brass in recent years, kicked off by Emir Kusturica and Goran Bregović in the landmark film Underground. It’s become an international party music led by Serbia’s Boban Marković, Macedonia’s Kočani Orkestar and Romania’s Fanfare Ciocărlia. The huge Guča festival has become symbol of Balkan brass in all its intoxicating excess. But the music is nothing new. It was born from a fusion of the military bands of the Ottoman Turks and the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century. SB
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Boban & Marko Marković Orchestra vs Fanfare Ciocărlia, Balkan Brass Battle (Asphalt Tango, 2011)
Originating in Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region, the rhythms of cumbia are said to lie in a courtship dance practiced among African slaves, but were swiftly fused with Hispanic influences to create a tropical Afro-Caribbean dance style that went viral across South America. The golden age of traditional cumbia came in the mid-20th century when its influence reached North America and the likes of Nat King Cole recorded cumbia songs. But in recent years the music has been given a contemporary, urban twist to enjoy a thrilling revival on club dance floors as tecnocumbia and nu-cumbia, incorporating elements of hip-hop, dancehall, dub and electronica. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, The Rough Guide to Cumbia (World Music Network, 2013)
West African musical heritage has for centuries been preserved by a hereditary griot caste that has handed down traditional knowledge and virtuosi from father to son. Toumani Diabaté, currently the poet laureate among the world’s kora players, claims a griot lineage of family musicians stretching back 71 generations. His father, Sidiki Diabaté, who originally hailed from the Gambia, was a kora player of legendary fame and his younger brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is a prominent virtuoso. Toumani’s son, also named Sidiki, is the latest recruit to the family tradition, recently recording a spectacular album of kora duets with his father. Another branch of the family, the Jobartehs, continues to dominate Gambian kora playing. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit, 2014)
The golden age of Ethiopian music ran from the 1950s to the 70s, when the likes of Mahmoud Ahmed, Tlahoun Gèssèssè and Mulatu Astatke filled the nightclubs of Addis Ababa with an intoxicating style of Ethio-jazz, which hypnotically blended pentatonic Ethiopian scales with Western instrumentation. This spectacular but fading heritage was brought back into the spotlight by the award-winning Éthiopiques series of CD reissues, launched by the French ethnomusicologist Francis Falceto on Buda Musique in 1998, and which now runs to a treasure trove of 29 volumes. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, The Very Best of Éthiopiques (Manteca, 2007)
There’s been a recent revival of Portuguese fado as a new generation of young artists have become interested in its melancholic beauty. The music was born in Lisbon in the early 19th century, became internationally famous in the 1950s, thanks to Amália Rodrigues, but was seen as tainted by the fascist regime a er the revolution that overthrew the dictatorship in 1974. That’s now forgotten and singers like Mariza, Ana Moura, Cristina Branco, Carminho and Gisela João have driven a spectacular rebirth in Portugal and increasingly around the world. Male singers seem less exportable but Carlos do Carmo and Ricardo Ribeiro are superb. And fado’s secret weapon, of course, is the tingling beauty of the Portuguese guitar. SB See also The Songlines Essential 10: Portuguese Fado Albums.
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Mariza, Transparente (EMI, 2005)
Paul Simon landed himself in hot water when he flew to South Africa in 1985 to begin recording Graceland with black township musicians. Accused of breaking the UN’s cultural boycott against the apartheid regime, with the distance of time the controversy now seems perverse and his response unanswerable. ‘What it represented was the essence of anti-apartheid in that it was a collaboration between blacks and whites to make music that people everywhere enjoyed,’ he said. ‘It was completely the opposite from what the apartheid regime said, which is that one group of people were inferior. Here, there were no inferiors or superiors, just an acknowledgement of everybody’s work as a musician. It was a powerful statement.’ Whatever the politics, he created a landmark album in the history of world music, which won a Grammy award and took the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to a global audience. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Paul Simon, Graceland (Warner Bros, 1986)
One of the world’s greatest acoustic guitar traditions, this solo fingerpicked style is as it says: the practice of loosening some strings from standard tunings to make opening tunings. Sweet and soulful, personal and flexible, with the thumb playing bassline and the fingers improvising around the melody, slack-key has been evolving since the 1830s (when Spanish and Mexican cowboys brought guitars to Hawaii) but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it surged in popularity. Look out for albums by late elders such as Gabby Pahinui and Sonny Chillingworth and by George Kahumoku Jr and young innovator, Makana Cameron. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Makana Cameron, Ki Ho’Alu: A Journey of Hawaiian Slack Key (Punahele, 2003)
Founded by Chris Blackwell, Island Records brought reggae to the world in the 1970s via the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals and Burning Spear. Inspired by the label’s success in transforming a rhythm from a tiny Caribbean island into a global musical powerhouse, in the 80s it became the first major label to take world music seriously, signing King Sunny Adé, Salif Keita, Angélique Kidjo and Baaba Maal, among others. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM King Sunny Adé, Juju Music (Island, 1982)
The compositions of the classically-trained ‘Tom’ Jobim encapsulate the essence of Brazilian cool. The prime mover behind the creation of bossa nova, his ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (The Girl from Ipanema) is not only the best-known example of the lilting genre but became one of the most recorded songs of all time after bossa nova took off not only in Rio but conquered the world and was championed by American jazz musicians. Jobim’s compositions have been recorded by almost every significant Brazilian artist and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, both of whom recorded entire albums of his songs. NW See also Bossa nova – the Ultimate Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Antônio Carlos Jobim, The Girl from Ipanema: The Antônio Carlos Jobim Songbook (Verve, 1995)
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, aka ‘he who carries death in his pouch,’ wasn’t just the man who invented Afrobeat, that fiery mix of jazz, soul, funk, highlife and traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music. He was one of the 20th century’s most influential African figures. A singer, saxophonist and bandleader whose music gave voice to the oppressed, he withstood the wrath of corrupt Nigerian governments. When Fela died in 1997, a million people joined his funeral procession through Lagos. His sons Femi and Seun, along with the likes of Dele Sosimi are keeping the Afrobeat flag flying. JC See also Fela Kuti: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Fela Kuti, The Best of the Black President, Vols 1 & 2 (Knitting Factory Records)
A recent biography of the folklorist Alan Lomax was subtitled The Man Who Recorded the World. And it was no exaggeration, for Lomax’s role in preserving folk music from around the globe was unparalleled. His starting point was accompanying his father on his first field trip to the Deep South in 1933, the pair discovered Lead Belly and recorded his vast repertoire. Working for the Library of Congress, Lomax recorded the likes of Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy and then turned his attention to the rest of the world, in particular Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Romania and the Caribbean. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, Alan Lomax Popular Songbook (Rounder, 2003)
Known as ‘Mama Africa’, the singing conscience of her people, Makeba was still a wide-eyed ingénue in her 20s when she went into exile in the late 50s. She became the first black South African artist to become an international star with hits such as ‘Pata Pata’. She was not able to return home to South Africa until 1990. By then she had become perhaps second only to Mandela as an ambassador for those suffering under the yoke of apartheid and an emblem for the perseverance and fortitude of a continent. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa (Milan, 2015)
The ney is a reed flute that is central to the mystical Sufi music in Turkey and Iran. When you hear the yearning, breathy, plaintive sounds of the ney you are transported into a spiritual dimension – which is why it’s so frequently used in film soundtracks. It’s at the heart of the music of the Mevlevi (whirling dervishes). Rumi’s most famous poem begins with the ney lamenting being cut from the reed bed as a symbol of man being disconnected from God. As Rumi has become the world’s most popular mystic poet, so the ney has become the mystical instrument of choice worldwide. Foremost among Turkish players, Kudsi Erguner comes from several generations of neyzen in Istanbul and is a true master of the instrument. SB See also Sufi music: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Kudsi Erguner, Ney: The Sacred Flute of the Whirling Dervishes (Al Sur, 1996)
The Buena Vista Social Club was never meant to be a band. But what a band it turned out to be. The Grammy-winning 1997 disc and its follow-up albums made superstars of the likes of crooner Ibrahim Ferrer, pianist Rubén González and the ‘Fiancée of filin,’ Omara Portuondo. They toured the world and then they toured it again, with new members coming in to replace each elderly Cuban maestro who chachachá-ed off to the sky. After 20 glorious years the BVSC recently bid farewell with an extensive world tour deftly prefixed by ‘Orquesta.’ Less adiós, perhaps, than ¡hasta la vista! JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 1997)
Argentinian tango has enjoyed several golden ages inspired by many bold innovators, including such early pioneers as Carlos Gardel and Aníbal Troilo. But it was the work of composer, bandoneón player and arranger Astor Piazzolla from the 1950s onwards that radically opened up tango, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music into a style that came to be known as nuevo tango. A cerebral haemorrhage in 1990 left him in a coma from which he never regained consciousness. He died two years later at the relatively young age of 71 but he’s still tango’s towering titan. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Astor Piazzolla, Tango: Zero Hour (Nonesuch, 1986)
It perhaps seems unlikely that qawwali, a spiritual music from the Islamic shrines of Pakistan and India could become a worldwide musical sensation, but that is what happened thanks to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997). Qawwali as a musical form goes back to the 13th century and features lead and supporting vocals, with clapping and percussion. It envelops you like an ocean. Nusrat had long been recognised as a sensational performer in Pakistan, and then started performing in the West. His performances at WOMAD led to several recordings for Real World and collaborations with Michael Brook. SB See also Sufi music: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mustt Mustt (Real World, 1990)
The name derives from the Spanish word rumbo, which means ‘par ,’ and although, like salsa, the term has become something of a catch-all, its use invariably guarantees a good time. In Cuba, rumba was initially used to describe a specific dance form but became a term for almost any percussive, upbeat party music. ‘El Manisero’ (The Peanut Vendor), which became the first Cuban million-seller in the 1930s, is widely acknowledged as the launch pad of a pre-rock’n’roll worldwide ‘rumba craze’ spearheaded by the likes of Pérez Prado and Beny Moré. It remains at the heart of Cuban dance music but has also migrated to Africa where rumba congolaise evolved into soukous, while flamenco rumba and rumba catalane are popular forms in Spain. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Beny Moré with Pérez Prado and His Orchestra, El Barbaro del Ritmo (Pure Sounds, 1995)
‘S’ is for sitar and for its most virtuosic exponent – for surely no musician has ever been more synonymous with his instrument than Ravi Shankar. His sitar playing reaffirmed the history and the beauty of Indian classical music and its highest form of expression in the raga. But he was also a great innovator who brought Indian music to Western audiences via collaborations with the likes of violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison. Today his daughter and foremost pupil Anoushka Shankar continues his work. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Ravi Shankar, India’s Master Musician (EMI/Angel, 1999)
The snaking electric guitar lines and funky, camel-gait rhythms of Tinariwen sounded enticingly and exotically new when first unleashed on the world via their debut album in 2001 – the same year the group helped to launch the now famous Festival in the Desert in the remote sand dunes of northern Mali, where the Touareg make their nomadic home. Since then a caravan of further Touareg guitar groups such as Teraka, Toumast and Tamikrest has emerged from the desert to make the sound familiar without ever losing its thrill. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Tinariwen, Aman Iman (Independiente, 2007)
‘Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen, and down the mountain side’ is perhaps the most famous opening line in Irish song – and nothing characterises Celtic music better than the haunting sound of the uilleann pipes. With their bittersweet tone, the Irish pipes have a quite different harmonic structure and richer emotional range than the Scottish bagpipes and have produced a long line of virtuoso players, the most revered of whom is Séamus Ennis (1919-1982), who was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1951. Na Píobairí Uilleann, co-founded by Ennis in 1968, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of the uilleann pipes and its music. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Séamus Ennis, Forty Years of Irish Piping (Green Linnet, 1974)
After Sibelius and heavy metal, Värttinä (the Finnish word for ‘spindle’) must be Finland’s biggest musical success. They combine elements of their fellow musicians in their unique approach – Sibelius’ love for the old runo songs of Karelia with the full-on vocal power of metalheads. It’s the fiery female vocals and a sense of women power that makes the Värttinä sound. The group celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013 and the current vocalists are founding member Mari Kaasinen, together with Susan Aho and Karoliina Kantelinen. SB
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Värttinä, Miero (Real World, 2006)
Founded by Peter Gabriel and some of his mates in 1980, this good-natured celebration of multicultural arts, music and dance takes place each July in the pastoral grounds of Charlton Park, a stately home owned by the Earl of Suffolk, in Wiltshire. Similar events happen in other countries around the world, including Australia’s stellar WOMADelaide. A three-day platform for artists from everywhere, WOMAD is a microcosm of a world we all should be living in, what with its Global Village and one-love vibe. Look out for the tall, trademark silk flags, flapping gently over an alt-music utopia. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, 30: Real World at WOMAD (Real World, 2012)
Go anywhere in Greece, and they know the name Xylouris. But go to Crete, the home of this musical dynasty, and they call them by other names too: Psarantonis, the great singer and lyra player; his lute-playing brother, Psaroyiannis; and their late sibling Psaranikos, aka the singer and lyra player Nikos Xylouris, a figurehead for the movement that brought down the military junta in 1973. There’s also George Xylouris, singer, lauto player and Psarantonis’ son; George’s oud-playing brother, Lambis; and sister and singer Nicki. Then there’s George’s three Greek-Australian kids, and George’s current project Xylouris White, a duo with Dirty Three drummer Jim White. Music in the DNA? Obviously. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Psarantonis & the Ensemble Xylouris, Mountain Rebels (Network, 2008)
The best-known African singer in the world, thanks largely to his collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Neneh Cherry for the international 1994 megahit ‘7 Seconds’, Youssou’s celebrity eventually led to him becoming a Senegalese MP. But political office remains secondary to his supple, soulful tenor voice and the thrilling dance style known as mbalax, which he pioneered and has elevated him to the role of globally-feted ambassador not only for Senegalese music but for African culture in general. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Youssou N’Dour, The Guide (Wommat) (Sony, 1994)
Zimbabwe’s transition from white colonial rule to independent republic may have soured in recent years, but its music has provided an indestructible backbeat through good times and bad. The jit jive of the Bhundu Boys made them one of the best-known African acts of the late 80s and the singer and guitarist Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi remains an iconic figure. But the undisputed ‘Lion of Zimbabwe’ is Thomas Mapfumo, who adopted traditional mbira (thumb piano) into a contemporary style and soundtracked the liberation war with his militant chimurenga music. He then became a critic of the Mugabe regime and went into exile in the US, but his music remains as potent as ever. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Thomas Mapfumo, The Chimurenga Singles 1976-1980 (Shanachie, 1984)
This article originally appeared in Songlines #110 (Aug/Sept 2015). Subscribe to Songlines
Photo credits: George Kahumoku Jr (© Matt Thayer); Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (© Ishida Masataka); Youssou N’Dour (© Youri Lenquette)