Best Music of 2012: NPR


Mokoomba, an emerging young group of Tonga musicians from Zimbabwe

Courtesy of the artist


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Courtesy of the artist


Mokoomba, an emerging young group of Tonga musicians from Zimbabwe

Courtesy of the artist

This list is almost entirely African, taken from my work this year with Afropop in the world. (I resisted the inclusion of jokers like that of the Sambadunda Quartet Java and Bonnie Raitt wake, as tempting as they are.) What strikes me about my favorite African outings this year is that, for the most part, they don’t come from the usual suspects – Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, etc. . The young techno-Afropop strain of acts like The Very Best and Janka Nabay is clearly ascending. It took a while for me to adjust to this tech-roots approach, but these two bands produced some delightfully musical albums. That said, I’m still kind of an old-school dance group at heart, hence my nod to Refugee All Stars and Staff Benda Bilili from Sierra Leone, two groups that have achieved fame through to documentary films about them. , but have now claimed more lasting fame with great music. Mokoomba, a spirited young group from Zimbabwe, is a discovery, the most promising new group in southern Africa in some time. Once again, they break the standard mold, coming from one of Zimbabwe’s smaller and lesser-known ethnic groups, Tonga.

Debo Band stands out among an ever-improving contingent of US-based African bands, even though they specialize in a 40-year-old Ethiopian style of music. The global crop mixer continues to produce intriguing hybrids. (Hi K’Naan!) But for my money, it’s still hard to beat the consistency, idiosyncratic logic, and deeply ingrained perfection of well-worn local styles, like salegie from Madagascar, or cumbia and champeta Columbia.