Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and actress. She frequently utilizes science fiction and speculative fiction elements in her lyrics, visuals, and performances to comment on contemporary society. Monáe was born on December 1, 1985 in Kansas City to a massive Baptist family. Monáe’s mother “worked as a janitor,” and her father drove garbage…

Miriam Makeba

Musician, mother, activist, and “Mama Africa”— Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932-2008) was all of these things and more. She was born in a township called Prospect, just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa to a Swazi mother and Xhousa father. Miriam was only eighteen days old when she was sent to prison with her mother for six…

Burna Boy

Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, known by his stage name Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer and songwriter. Burna creates music in a genre of his own that he has dubbed Afrofusion, which draws influence from Afro-beat, reggae, pop, and dancehall (Pitchfork Album Review). Born on July 2, 1991, Burna’s musical journey began early in his life…

Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N’Dour is a Sengalenese artist who has helped bridge the gap between the entertainment and political realms. Born in Dakar, Senegal in 1959, N’Dour started playing instruments from a very young age. He began playing in an orchestra, then transitioned into his first band, “Star Band”. He would go on to create 36 albums…

Samuel Coleridge Taylor

Commonly referred to as the “African Mahler”, Samuel Coleridge Taylor was born on August 15, 1875 in London, where he would go on to become a prominent composer and conductor during the late Romantic to early Modern time period of classical music. His father, who was of Sierra Leonean descent, returned to his homeland before…

Sona Jobarteh

Sona Jobarteh is one of the first female griots.  She descends from one of the five griot families of West Africa. Her grandfather, Amadu, is known as one of the most renowned griots of his time. But, Sona breaks the mold by being one of the first females to take up the kora, the traditional…

Miriam Makeba

Singer, political activist, philanthropist, mother, “Mama Africa” — Miriam Makeba (1932-2008) was all of the above. She was born in Prospect, a black township outside of Johannesburg, South Africa to a Swazi mother and Xhosa father during a time of severe economic depression when apartheid still had a tight hold on the country. Just eighteen…

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a well-known South African singer-songwriter, humanitarian and entrepreneur. She was born as Yvonne Machaka on the 18th of March 1965 in Dobsonville, Soweto. Her early childhood seemed to be rather challenging since she was born into a family that was struck by poverty and when she was 11 years old her…

Fela Kuti

|| Lyricist || Civil Rights Activist || Jazz Artist || Polygamist || Social Critic || Fela Kuti was a musician and political activist from Nigeria. Over the course of his life he created a new genre of music he called Afrobeat, was arrested 200 times for uncompromising, outspoken condemnation of the Nigerian government, declared his…

Teddy Afro (Tewodros Kassahun)

Tewodros Kassahun—known as Teddy Afro—is “the biggest star in Ethiopian musical history” (Gardner). Born July 14, 1976, Afro has released five albums, the most recent of which, Ethiopia—released May 2017, has crowned Billboard’s World Album chart and is the fastest selling album in Ethiopian history (Gardner). Afro is known for his patriotic, nationalistic, and elliptically…

Akon

Early Life Akon was born Aliaume Damal Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis.  As a child he would move back and forth between the US and Senegal until eventually settling in New Jersey for high school.  He was influenced musically by his parents, his father being a percussionist and his mother a dancer. He learned…

Salif Keita

  Salif Keita is an African musician (afro-pop singer and songwriter).  Born in 1949 in the village of Djoliba, Mali, he is a direct descendant of the King Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Malian Empire. Fascinated with the mixing of cultures, he is constantly assimilating new genres and styles into his music. He is considered…