Here Are 5 Most Influential African Musicians And Their Achievements

BY Dora Abena Dzaka October 6, 2023 9:06 PM EDT
Photo Credit: Facebook @Angelique Kidjo

For ages, African music has been an essential component of the culture and rightly so, has resulted in producing many outstanding musicians on the continent. These music figures, ranging from Fela Kuti to Youssou N’Dour and many other new generational artistes, have shaped generations of listeners with their distinctive sounds and styles.

The African music scene has been affected by numerous musical styles, which have had a profound influence on the music industry and have served as an inspiration to numerous generations to this day. In this article, we examine all-time great African musicians and how they continue to influence music churned from the continent even today.

Fela Kuti

Nigerian singer, songwriter, and bandleader Fela Kuti is regarded as one of the continent’s most influential musicians. His Afrobeats music, which combined jazz, funk, and traditional Nigerian music, was what he was best known for. Fela was a political activist who deployed his music to criticize the policies of the Nigerian government. He was often detained and served time in jail for his musical creations, yet he persisted in creating music that spoke to Nigerians. Fela passed away in 1997, but his music and the work of his sons, Femi and Seun Kuti, carry on his legacy.

Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N’Dour’s name cannot be left out when discussing influential African singers from West Africa. He is known as “the most famous singer alive” in Senegal. The African legend is a great singer, songwriter, guitarist, and composer. Songs written by this gifted guitarist like 7 Seconds, The Guide, Undecided, and So Many Men are considered timeless pieces. The Alboury singer has won awards like the Danish Music Prize, Edison Awards, MOBO Awards, and MTV Europe Music Awards. His proudest moment would be his 1995 Grammy Awards win for his album, Egypt.

 Salif Keita

Salif Keita, a Malian singer, songwriter, and producer, is regarded as one of Africa’s most important performers. Keita was raised in a musical family and was exposed to a variety of traditional Malian music at a very early age. Over the course of his career, the Tomorrow crooner released over 20 albums and worked with a wide range of musicians including Manu Dibango, Youssou N’Dour, and Bonnie Raitt. His music combines blues, jazz, and rock elements with traditional Malian rhythms. In addition to his music, Keita is well known for his social engagement. He has spoken out against the plight of Africa’s underprivileged and sought to foster peace and harmony in his home country, Mali. For his contributions to global music, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo is a Beninese singer, songwriter, actress, and activist considered one of the most influential African musicians of all time. She was referred to as “Africa’s premier diva” by Time Magazine in 2007. The singer’s lovely tunes including Agolo, Adouma, Wombo Lombo, Afrika, and Batonga ,combine Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin music influences. The 63-year-old act has won numerous awards, including 5 Grammys, KORA, BET, and MOBO awards. Additionally, Forbes Magazine included her in the list of “100 Most Influential Women” and “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa” in 2015.

Wizkid, Nigeria

Wizkid is arguably the first name that comes to mind when you think of African music in recent times. Born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, Wizkid has captured the attention of his audience by producing works of art that faithfully reflect contemporary Afrobeats. Additionally, the On Top Your Matter hitmaker has elevated African music to a new level. Songs like 2 Sugar, Essence, Wow, Brown Skin Girl, and One Dance are some of the 2022 Grammy Award winner for Best Music Video’s greatest hits. The 33-year-old’s accolades include six MOBO Awards, three BET Awards, three Billboard Awards, and two iHeartRadio Music Awards. He is also the only African artist in history to spend 100 weeks on the Billboard World Albums Chart with his Made in Lagos album.