Kyle Shepherd (Photo by Ference Isaacs)

This list of 10 albums by African artists probably says more about my own musical preferences than it does about all those other “Best Albums of 2012” year-end lists floating around on the web which didn’t include them (looking at you, Pitchfork, Stereogum, The FADER and SPIN). Not unlike last year, I’m surprised these albums don’t get more love on the net. My iTunes player tells me these were the recordings I’ve been listening to most this year — I got schooled while doing so too.

Jagwa Music – Bongo Heatheads

Quote: “Straight from Dar es Salaam, here’s Jagwa Music: a crew of 8 youngsters playing intricate grooves at breakneck speed on traditional & makeshift percussion, a keyboard player going wild on a battered vintage Casio, and three relentless front persons: two breathtaking, spectacular dancers & a charismatic lead vocalist/MC, belting out songs about survival in the urban maze, unfaithful lovers & voodoo.”

Watch and listen: Jagwa Music live in the streets of Dar.

Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang – En Yay Sah

The similarities between the album cover art for Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang and Jagwa’s are probably a coincidence but what both recordings do have in common is their drive. Sierra Leonean Janka Nabay and his American backing band delivered an awesome product.

Watch and listen: Somebody.

Ben Zabo

Quote: “His music is a string of firecrackers igniting on the dance floor of a midnight party. It is a music that has been perfected in the loud, sweaty, open-air clubs that line the outskirts of Bamako, places where the competition to get heard is fierce, and the chances of moving upward and outward are next to none. / This album is the first album ever to be released by a Malian of Bo descent.”

Watch and listen: Sènsènbo.


Quote: “New band of the day.”

For real though, Sudan-born Sinkane is Ahmed Gallab of Yeasayer (and many other bands).

Watch and listen: Runnin’.

Youssoupha – Noir Désir

Youssoupha Mabiki is the son of Congolese legend Tabu Ley Rochereau.

Watch and listen: Les Disques de Mon Père (that’s “le père / the father,” 3:25 mins into the video).

Francophone African diaspora Hip-Hop speaking this much truth so eloquently — and so well-produced — about a nation’s ailing remains a rare thing.

Kanyi – Lintombi Zifikile

You know we admire South African rapper Kanyisa Mavi.

Watch (a 2011 video) and listen: Ingoma.

It’s tough, being a female MC out there.

Kyle Shepherd – South African History !X

No other South African musician has been touring the world this year as widely as jazz artist Kyle Shepherd did. (Check his mad tour schedule; I’m still bummed he skipped his Belgian gig for a Swiss one.)

Quote: “paying homage to the languages of the first nation people…and bringing to the fore South Africa’s slave-holding past.”

Watch, listen, and take note: South African History !X.

Ebo Taylor – Appia Kwa Bridge

Quote: “Despite attending the same London music school as Fela Kuti in the early 1960s, this is only the second international release from Ghanaian highlife guitarist Ebo Taylor.”

Watch and listen: Ebo Taylor On Recording Appia Kwa Bridge.

Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975-1982

I wasn’t familiar with the work of late Cameroonian composer, musician, sculptor, novelist, guitarist, “Renaissance Man” and radio presenter Francis Bebey. Courtesy of French music label Born Bad.

Quote: “you’d be a fool to pass this up.”

Listen: Agatha.

Karantamba – Ndigal

Teranga Beat released this extra-ordinary live recording (date: August 16, 1984; place: Sangomar Club, Thiès, Senegal) Gambian artist Bai Janha did with his last group, Karantamba, a school for young musicians.

Quote: “Band leader of the groups BLACK STAR, WHALES BAND, FABULOUS EAGLES & SUPREME EAGLES, founder of the group ALLIGATORS who later became the GUELEWAR, BAI is the one who created the unique psychedelic sound in the region of SENE-GAMBIA, mixing traditional compositions with Soul, his musical innovations contributed to the domination of AFRO-MANDING music in West Africa for more than a decade.”

Watch (older photo stills of the band) and listen: Satay Muso.