African Roots Revival

This Rough Guide spotlights the front-runners of an explosive revival of African roots music, artists who have not simply preserved, but truly reinvented musical genres with outstanding results. Many of the bands included here feature innovative homemade instruments built from junk-yard materials such as fuel cans, bicycle wires and oil canisters.

The opening track on the album by the charismatic and boisterous group Staff Benda Bilili, features the astonishing skills of Roger Landu on satonge. The music is part Cuban rumba, part funk, part blues, all rolled up into one fantastic Benda Bilili mix. The Zulu igogogo king Shiyani Ncgobo also makes an appearance on ‘Sevelina’. True to masakanda form, the track features an opening instrumental section filled with ornament and flourish, followed by a fast picked section and, later, a recitative passage.

The Bedouin Jerry Can Band play improvised percussion made from rubbish items sourced from their homeland, the Egyptian Sinai Desert. They work the hollow resonant hits of jerry cans, ammunition boxes and coffee jugs into their hypnotic music. Two infamous Congolese bands Kasai All Stars and Konono No 1 can be heard intoning their loopy, mesmerising trance-inducing style on this Rough Guide. Whilst Mamane Barka treats us to the sounds of the biram, a deep, resonant harp accompanied by traditional percussion – the douma, kalangou and calabash.

The full-length bonus album from the Kenyan group Kenge Kenge provides an engaging exploration of the acoustic origins of benga and the Luo musical heritage. The music featured on this Rough Guide popularizes traditional music and simultaneously reinvents it. These are the excellently infectious sounds of the past, present and future all at once.