Category Archives: African culture

RIP Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)

Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)  was a South African musician, composer and singer.

I celebrated Hugh’s 70th birthday nine years ago [1] and pointed to the two compositions of Masekela that are in my top 1000 (“Grazing in the Grass” and “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“).

Above is “African Secret Society”, a 1974 composition by Masekela, soft, breezy and jazzy (and I love the idea of an African secret society).

Also [above] a recent find I discovered after France Gall’s death, “Umqokozo (Children’s Game Song About A New Red Dress)“, a song French musician Serge Gainsbourg used without credit as “Pauvre Lola” and on which you can hear Masekela playing at 0:55.

Hugh Masekela @70

Hugh Masekela @70

Hugh Masekela (April 4, 1939) is a South African musician known for such songs as “Grazing in the Grass” and the discotheque hit “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“. He was married to Miriam Makeba[1].


Hugh Masekela, I Am Not AfraidColonial Man by MasekelaAmericanization of Ooga BoogaTechno BushIntroducing Hedzoleh Soundz

He was one of several African musicians to introduce African music in the west in the 1960s which has been a major factor in the shaping Western popular music.

Always a musical chameleon, Masekela has been classified as Afrobeat, jazz fusion, jazz funk, soul jazz; he even produced an album with drum machines, appropriately titled Techno Bush.

Marvin Gaye @70

Marvin Gaye @70


Sexual Healing

Marvin Gaye (April 2 1939April 1 1984) was an African-American singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer who gained international fame as an artist on the Motown record label in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best-known for “Sexual Healing,” a 1982 song and the first hit record to use the Roland TR-8081 for bass.

The lyrics of ‘Sexual Healing” song discussed a man’s aching for finding sexual healing with his woman – hence the title “Sexual Healing“. According to David Ritz, when he interviewed Gaye for an autobiography, he noticed comic book pornography in Marvin’s room and mentioned to the singer that he “needed sexual healing” causing Gaye and Ritz to write the lyrics.

1 The famous Roland TR-808 was launched in 1980. At the time it was regarded with little fanfare, as it did not have digitally sampled sounds; drum machines using digital samples were much more popular. In time though, the TR-808, along with its successor, TR-909 (released in 1983), would soon become a fixture of the burgeoning underground dance, techno, and hip hop genres, mainly because of its low cost (relative to that of the Linn machines), and the unique character of its analogue-generated sounds. The TR-808’s sound only became truly desirable in the late 1980s, about five years after the model was discontinued and had become cheaply available on the second hand market.

RIP Joe Cuba (1931 – 2009)

RIP Joe Cuba

RIP Joe Cuba by you.

I discovered Cuba’s work via the Nu Yorica and Nova Classics 01 compilations. Tracks from those compilations that have acquired cult status include “Do You Feel It?[1]” (most likely his interpretation of the Latin traditional “El Ratón[2]), and “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia)[3].”


Do You Feel It?

His biggest hit was the 1966 “Bang! Bang![4],” which achieved unprecedented success for Latin music in the United States.

Joe Cuba (1931 – February 15, 2009), was a Puerto Rican musician who was considered to be the “Father of Latin Boogaloo“. The lyrics to Cuba’s music used Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English, becoming an important part of the Nuyorican Movement, somewhat the Latin version of the Harlem Renaissance.

Fly Girls!

Soul Jazz Presents Fly Girls: B Boys Beware – Revenge of the Super Female Rappers (2008) []

[FR] [DE] [UK]

I’ ve mentioned this before, that the majority of releases in my cd-collection are anthologies. One of the finest anthology labels since the 1990s is Soul Jazz Records. That British company has just released
Fly Girls! (full title Soul Jazz Presents Fly Girls: B Boys Beware – Revenge of the Super Female Rappers), anthology of female rap artists that celebrates the genre’s 30th anniversary. What follows is a wikified version of the liner notes, of which I could not identify the author. Please fill me in on that blank if you own the cd. The liner notes are hyperlinked to Youtube entries.

The compilation is worth its price alone for featuring the below track by Camille Yarborough.


Take Yo’ Praise

The history of female rap on record begins in 1979 in New York City as the clamour of the city’s artists, record companies and producers strove to make it onto vinyl in the wake of The Sugarhill Gang’s squillion-selling hit, “Rappers Delight[1] – released that year on the former soul singer Sylvia Robinson’s Sugarhill Records. It would be the Winley family – comprising sisters Tanya, Paulette – who made the first female rap record produced by their mother Ann and released on their father’s label, Paul Winley Records.

Aside from the singing/rap styles that earlier soul artists such as Aretha Franklin[2], Shirley Ellis[3], Millie Jackson[4] and Laura Lee[5] would occasionally adopt in their songs, female rap (like rap itself) had its antecedents in the groundbreaking black poetry of the 60s and 70s with radical, free-thinking poets such as Nikki Giovanni[6], Camille Yarborough[7] and Sarah Webster Fabio[8] – all of whom are included here – vocalising hitherto unheard expressions of female and black self-determination in their work. These strong, educated, political women not only led the way stylistically but also helped define how a female artist could make their own career path – weaving creativity, politics and family in a way that Missy Elliott[9], Queen Latifah[10] and others have since followed – establishing the boundary-breaking career paths of many female artists in rap. Hip-hop is a culture of which music is only a part; nowadays (and to an extent from the very beginning) the most successful female hip-hop artist is often singer, DJ, actress, manager, political and social agitator and more in multiple combinations.

Hip-hop’s story begins in the tenement blocks and community centres of the South Bronx. In the first three years-or-so history of hip-hop (1976-9) – before the first rap records were made – aspiring female artists could watch onstage the early female MC role models of Sha-Rock (the first female MC in the group Funky Four Plus One[11]) or the Mercedes Ladies[12] (the first female MC and DJ crew). With Tanya and Paulette Winley’s ‘Rappin and Rhymin’ on vinyl by 1979 it would not be until the following year that the first all-female crew made it onto vinyl when The Sequence[13] (featuring a then unknown Angie Stone) was astutely signed, once again, by Sylvia Robinson to Sugarhill Records.

Robinson was not the only woman on the business side of hip-hop. There was Kool Lady Blue who first brought rap out of the Bronx and into downtown NYC at the Roxy nightclub and also later managed The Rocksteady Crew. Monica Lynch who rose to head of A and R and president of Tommy Boy Records, and later vice-president of Warners, comments that because hip-hop was new it did not have the hierarchy of the traditional music industry and women were thus able to move more easily into executive roles. Later, as we shall see, many of the artists moved into the business themselves taking control of their careers and aiding others.

Roxanne Shante is certainly the first female rapper to make a career out of her music. Shante and fellow Queens-resident and producer Marley Marl fought their corner for both their borough (taking on Boogie Down Productions and the Bronx) and anyone else who dared call themselves ‘Roxanne’ in a slanging-match known as The Roxanne Wars[14]. This verbal jousting had its antecedents dating back to the ‘dozens’ of the playground and tower-block (‘Your mother is a …’, ‘No, your mother is a …’) and to the Griot storytellers of Africa. Roxanne Shante, and many others here, effortlessly subverted this – and many other – male-dominated traditions to create and re-write new histories.

RIP Odetta (1930 – 2008)

RIP Odetta (19302008)


Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

Odetta Holmes, (December 31, 1930December 2 2008), known as Odetta, was an African-American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her musical repertoire consists largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and ’60s, she was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin.

She was known for her renditions of songs such as “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child[1] and “Pastures of Plenty“.

RIP Miriam Makeba

RIP Miriam Makeba


Live version of “Pata Pata

South African singer Miriam Makeba died yesterday while touring in Italy. She was 76 and best-known for being a vocal anti-apartheid activist, her 1967 song “Pata Pata[1][2] and her marriages to fellow country trumpeter Hugh Masekela and American “Black pride“/”Black Power” activist Stokely Carmichael.

Pata Pata” is a musical composition recorded by South African singer Miriam Makeba and released in 1967 on Reprise Records.

“Pata Pata” was co-written by Miriam Makeba and Jerry Ragovoy. After Makeba was signed to Warner/Reprise Records and published her first singles, the record company needed several songs to finish a Makeba album. Legend has it that she had told Reprise she wanted to do ballads, so they put her together with Jerry Ragovoy, the R&B writer/producer who was on staff at Warner Brothers at the time. Not being familiar with her, the night before their first recording session, he went to see her in a club in Greenwich Village, where she did a show comprised completely of African folk music. He was captivated to the point that, the next day, he just had Makeba and her sister sing a number of the songs into a tape recorder. One of them became “Pata Pata.”


Studio version of “Pata Pata

The song was covered by Osibisa and Percy Faith.

In her political activism, Makeba reminds me of Fela Kuti and most of all, Josephine Baker.

Had he not succumbed to the complications of AIDS in 1997

Unidentified photograph of Fela Kuti

The Nigerian musician Fela Kuti would have celebrated his 70th birthday today, had he not succumbed to the complications of AIDS in 1997.

Like much of my music which I now consider canonical, I discovered him through my house music love story.


Digression #1, namesake of “Shakara” track by Fela Kuti, [1] has embedding disabled

He first popped up as the author of “Shakara[1] on playlists of David Mancuso‘s legendary The Loft. Playlists I discovered of course via the internet.


Cover of a Japanese Fela Kuti compilation album

The pre-internet world was literally a terra incognita. If one found a record by Fela Kuti, one had to find good sources to discover the rest of his releases. Today we’ve moved to a terra cognita. One glance at Discogs is enough to discover the oeuvre of Fela.

What we still need though, in spite of the terra cognita situation, are tastemakers. Biased tastemakers.

Simon Reynolds has blamed the terra cognita thing for the supposed death of the underground, he will be hosting a conference on this soon[2].

He stated on this before:

“The web has extinguished the idea of a true underground. It’s too easy for anybody to find out anything now, especially as scene custodians tend to be curatorial, archivist types. And with all the mp3 and whole album blogs, it’s totally easy to hear anything you want to hear, in this risk-less, desultory way that has no cost, either financially or emotionally.” Simon Reynolds via woebot.

One more word on Fela. Woebot once said – I paraphrase – “I’ll take King Sunny Adé over Fela Kuti any day. Too much redundancy in Fela.”I disagree. I like long pieces and love Fela’s trance. Which reminds me, I miss Woebot.


Unidentified clip of Sunny Ade

Here is a quote from that Woebot post:

Sunny Ade gets my vote over Fela Kuti anyday. There’s too much redundancy in Fela’s music, saxophones and organs meandering all over the place. Shaggy ain’t my thing. While the political ire and philosophical stance of something like “Kalakuta Republic” are rousing, in preference I’ll take the sheer sonic thrill of Tony Allen‘s edge-of-climax drum pans on the more “superficial” dance craze record “Open and Close“. That record retains the JB‘s hyper-tense instrumental dynamics and one-mind co-operation, without degenerating into marijuana miasma.”[3]

Reggae mythology


“Prophecy” by Fabian

Today is an important day in reggae mythology. Haile Selassie was crowned today 80 years ago. Unlike P-Funk mythology, reggae mythology does not have a Wikipedia page. Its nearest equivalent page is Rastafari movement.

As a term, reggae mythology has the advantage of being a subcategory of black science fiction (mainly because of the Lee Perry link). The introduction of the concept will also allow easier understanding of terms such as 400 Years.

Speaking of Perry, I found compositions off “Revolution Dub” at YouTube, notably Woman’s Dub[1] and the original of “Doctor on the Go” by Junior Byles [2].

“Doctor on the Go” and “Woman’s Dub” are WMCs, I’ve added the 174th entry for what will become a 1001-piece series.

Bra burning: the event was not televised, as it did not happen

I’ve praised the non-event before[1].

Bra burning by you.

Welcome to Miss America cattle auction.

Today’s non-event is of a different nature. It’s been exactly 40 years since the New York Radical Women did not burn their bras[2] at the 1968 Miss America contest in Atlantic City. A non-event (Someone suggested lighting a fire, but a permit could not be obtained, and so there was no burning, nor did anyone take off her bra) which went into history as a milestone of female protest against male oppression. I can’t help but wonder if the protesters had been male, would they have stopped their plan to burn the contents of their “Freedom Trash Can” for lack of a permit?

Also, in general, male oppressors would have been glad if beautiful women had stopped wearing bras; most women on the other hand thought and still think that not wearing bras is impractical.

The event was not televised, as it did not happen.

Bras bring memories.

Bras – short for brassieres – remind us of John Currin‘s 1997 painting The Bra Shop[3] and Cymande‘s song “Bra,”[4] from their 1973 debut album.

Cymande’s “Bra” (WMC#77) is not their signature song, they are better-known for tracks such as “Brother on the Slide[5], which is WMC #78; and the “The Message[6], WMC #79.

John Currin‘s 1997 painting The Bra Shop is IoEA #34.