It’s been an exceptionally busy year, we went to over 30 gigs, and in our New Music page, there are over 70 album releases listed.
With some absolutely sublime sounds from all over Africa and beyond, it was quite a task in deciding the 10 Best African Albums of 2019.
So here’s our pick.
Not listed in any particular preference – except for top spot.
A collection of artists that excelled, releases that enthralled and live performances that wowed us.
Thank you, to everyone Africa!
If there was a TV series called ‘extreme homemade musical instruments' - KOKOKO! would be the hosts and Fongola would be the soundtrack.
Experimenting with engine parts to typewriters, the (DR) Congolese DIY’ers invent and build their own mélange of sounds.
Flirting between post-punk and electronic, the intoxicating hypnotic grooves are blisteringly danceable.
Recording in makeshift studios built out of ping pong tables and mattresses in Kinshasa and Brussels,
they then took Fonglola on a world tour this year.
***** WINNER! BEST AFRICAN ALBUM 2019 *****
Released 5th July 2019
Label: Transgressive records.
Country: DR Congo.
A magnitude of free jazz, spiritual rants, raps and chants delivered with rock ‘n’ roll fervency.
The 7 piece band from Soweto, South Africa inspired by indigenous music conjure extended trance-like songs, radiating positive energy as it challenges musical formats and simultaneously the harsh realities of African life.
Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness sees its music as a “hedonistic trance, but also as a weapon of political and spiritual liberation” – “Music for the people, by the people, with the people.”
Their live performance at Glastonbury was extraordinary this year.
Released 10 May 2019
Label: Buda Musique
Country: South Africa
Intrinsically deep-rooted with African dance sounds and styles, Kongo Dia Ntotila’s second release 360°is a profusion of adept musicianship.
Congolese guitar and energetic rhythms blend fluently with jazzy horns and bass lines inspired by the buoyant UK Jazz scene.
The listener is joyfully seesawed between Kinshasa and London. It’s inventive, original and massively catchy.
A feel-good fun ride from start to finish.
Released 10 May 2019.
Label: Pussy Foot Records.
Country: DR Congo/UK
Brimming with rock guitars, synths and heavy drums sees a thumping modernistic onrush from the traditional Tuareg sound.
Kel Assouf has traversed a frontier of music like a desert storm blowing through an inner city, redefining its straight lines and boundaries.
Black Tenere has been constantly played and watching Kel Assouf perform at The Crypt for the London African Festival
was one of the highlights the year.
Release Date: 15 February 2019.
Record label: Glitterbeat Records.
Genre: Desert Blues,Rock,Tuareg.
Country: Niger, Belgium.
London Afrobeat Collective unleashed the full force of their funky energetic afrobeat.
In the spirit of Fela Kuti, Humans is socially mindful and politically charged with powerful messages within song titles such as ‘Power to the Women’ and ‘Stop Talking’. Punchy horns and grooving guitars underline the straight to the point hard-hitting lyrics.
’you’ve got blood in your hands’ - a line from ‘Prime Resources’ now comes to mind as I scroll on my phone.
Full of musical gutsiness, with the fervor of their exhilarating live performances, the LAC sound is evolving beyond the sphere of afrobeat, and an album striving for social justice has never sounded this good.
Released 25th October 2019
Label: London Afrobeat Productions
The Ngoni, a simple ancient instrument, but when played by a master Griot, a mesmerising myriad of rhythms supervene - Mali at its best!
Released: 25th January 2019
Label: Outhere Records
I was fortunate enough to hear these songs earlier this year at the album preview at the V&A Museum in the grandeur of the tapestry rooms.
In the dimly lit, intimate setting, the performance had an aura of mystique and it was impossible not to be enchanted by Haymanot.
The ambience of that performance is reflected on the album, and using only the krar and a drum it’s a bold debut.
Yet, it doesn’t need anything else, as it’s simply beautiful.
Released 1st November 2019
Label: Vacilando ’68 Recordings
Desert blues at its finest, including dazzling reworks of songs legendary Ali Farka Toure also recorded.
A monumental Malian studio supergroup that encompasses traditional sounds, enriched by the verve of a new generation of musicians.
Progressive and compelling – essential listening.
Released 13 April 2019.
Label: Clermont Music.
Genre: Desert Blues, Folk, Rock.
Oum has taken the traditional roots of Morrocan music and fused it with jazzy horns and subtle electronic sounds.
Oum’s voice is powerful, passionate and warm. ‘Daba’ means ‘now’ in Moroccan Arabic and her lyrics reflect the current troubled times in the world. The album is a classy chic affair and will be well received on the international stage in 2020
Released 30 Aug 2019.
Genre: Jazz,Blues,Soul,Gnawa,Fusion .
Ghanaian highlife music returned with a bang this year, with the 72 years young Pat Thomas and his band releasing Obiaa!
A warm feel-good factor breezes through the songs, as Ghanian highlife is given a modern makeover.
Watching them perform at the Jazz Cafe this year in front of a rapturous crowd was one of the best gigs of the year.
Released 4 October 2019.
Label: Strut Records.
Did you enjoy our
10 Best African Albums of 2019?
Looking for some new African music?
Head to our New Music page for our regularly updated list of new African flavoured album releases,
which features a playlist from tracks from the albums.
The 10 Best African Albums of 2019