10 African Albums of 2011

Quote: “I go quietly to pay Mizgawa a little visit.”

FOKN Bois meet Irie Maffia Production

The FOKN DunaQuest In Budapest


Quote: “We see demma Maffia side, but now everything be Irie.”

Seun Kuti

From Africa with Fury: Rise


Quote: “Our ear don’t fool for your words, our stomach still empty.”


Afro J.E.T.S Club Project


Quote: “No lyrics, just snippets.”

El Rego

El Rego (Re-Issue)


Quote: “This isn’t the sort of one-world pabulum available in your Whole Foods check-out line.”

Boubacar Traoré

Mali Denhou


Quote: “There’s all kinds of things in the idea of Midnight.”

Various Artists

Bambara Mystic Soul – “The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979.”

Burkina Faso

Quote: “The record documents a time prior to the military coups.”

Blitz The Ambassador

Native Sun


Quote: “I don’t know what the future holds.”

Amerigo Gazaway

Fela Soul


Quote: “For this one I was basically trying to recreate the Jake One beat using Fela Kuti samples.”

Various Artists

Chief Boima presents Lone Stars: Hipco and Gbema Vol. 1


Quote: “After we ate, and the son and his friends performed for the guests, we all sat through a lecture by the politician’s wife on how being a musician wasn’t a serious job.”

If people still bought full albums…we would suggest them buying these 10 from 2011 for their friends — like we did. (List compiled with Sean Jacobs.)



  1. I LOVE African Music. Well, most of it. I especially love music from Mali. I do buy full CD’s of most African artists I get to see at folk festivals here in Alberta. We have been blessed many times with outstanding music from Africa. We also have the world’s best radio station, CKUA which plays stuff you would never hear otherwise.
    By the way, I saw Tinariwen 3 times this past summer!

  2. You missed the best release of the year, if not the decade. Opika Pende: Africa at 78 rpms.

    This is a 100 song collection spread over 4 CDs of music originally released on 78s. The music is from all over the continent recorded at the momement when traditional music was morphing into popular music. The variety and scope of the set is amazing. The liner notes and photos fill a 140 page book. This collection is not to be missed; it is without a doubt one of the finest CDs I have ever bought.

  3. Nice list here. A nice blend of traditional and hiphop styles. Seems there is a sudden revival of the African essence everywhere. Very long overdue

  4. Teck`s AFRO JETS made it for me,so conceptual blendin the African wit hiphop-beat,snippet,documentaries..diz what every african youths shld listen to now .Teck is a social activist jus talkin to thru hiphop .FELASOUL too is awesome .Great minds!

  5. It’s a bit dissappointing that a blog like this would reccommend so many African albums that fit so securely into the ‘world music’ genre and ignore pretty much all the exciting new music being produced. Shame.

    1. @Andrew: There’s only so many albums one can select for a list of 10. Fill us in on the albums you think we’ve missed. Alternatively, there’s always the archive of Music Breaks. You’ve listened to the above ten, right?

  6. @Tom. There’s only so many ‘The Raw Sound/Beat of xx 1965-70’ etc. etc. I can stomach, so I can’t claim to have listened to all 10.

    I’d have included some, if not all, of the below, which I’d suggest better reflects the quality and diversity of music currently being produced and listened to in Africa, rather than the US and Europe.

    STL – Kinanda
    Naeto C -Super C Season
    Cabo Snoop – Bluetooth (came out in 2010, but didn’t hit till this year)
    Wizkid – Superstar
    Sexion d’assualt – attendant l’apogee
    Proffessor – University of Kalawe
    Navio – African Hustler Music
    Asa – Beautiful Imperfection

    Excuse my for my predominantly Anglophone sensibilities. I’d have included a lot more, but the concept of albums is pretty much routinely ignored in East Africa, which produced some of the best music in the last year and the region in whose music I’m best versed.

    Not a retrospective disco/afrobeat/taureg string quartet in sight, either.

    Happy Listening!

    1. Give me Asa anytime..besides she kinda fits into the “world music” by the way..Nneka?
      Wizkid?..seriously? he is in his own lane and what he does is pop,mainstream which is nothing new same goes for Naeto C..You made a worthy list my friend sans Wizkid and Naeto…’nuff said

      1. @Idogho – why all the hate for mainstream pop? Music doesn’t have to be new to be great. 5 and 6 and 10 over 10 were both classic pop tunes. Great hooks, catchy sing-a-long lyrics and a danceable beat. Play that in a club from Lagos to Nairobi to Joburg – peeps would be dancing!

        I get what you’re saying about Asa and world music, but where’d you find her CDs in HMV (or non-UK equivalent)? In RnB not the World section. Not that I’m assuming record stores are the best placed to assign musical genres on artists, but you get the drift – she’s moved out of the world/african music pidgeon hole.

        Which really was my problem with this list in the first place – it hasn’t.

        Oh, and agree on Nneka too!

      2. I actually LACK hate for the mainstream. My point is diversity begins when we stray from the norm. If every song is made up of “Great hooks, catchy sing-a-long lyrics and a danceable beat” it leaves nothing to the imagination. I cite Asa as a prime example,her 1st CD is EXCELLENT sans the club bangers and it still got massive airplay. I haven’t listen to most of the albums on the list but the ones I heard were well thought out conceptualized works. e.g Blitz,Seun Kuti,FOKN BOIS and Afro JETS(which is an afro/hiphop audio documentary..who has ever done that?)
        At the end of the day its all opinions but at least we both agree on Nneka.
        Nice one bruv

  7. The Amerigo Gazaway and Blitz albums are two of my favorite albums I possess! Incredible music. I saw Blitz in DC and he puts on an amazing show!

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