10 African Music Legends To Know

Africa is home to many musical legends who have made their mark in the world. Many of them were pioneers of different African music genres that have become part of what is called the authentic African sound. This list explores the great men and women who have given the continent amazing music to listen to.

Fela Kuti

Renowned for his high octane performances, Fela Kuti is acclaimed to be the greatest African artists to have ever lived. He was a multi-instrumentalist, musician, political activist, composer and the pioneer  of the music genre known as  Afrobeat. Rising to fame in the 70s with his band 'The Afrika '70' he was popular for singing in Yoruba his native tongue and Pidgin English which could be enjoyed by people all over Africa.

Miriam Mkeba

Often referred to as Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba is truly the most popular female artist to come out of Africa. Her music dealt with the socio-political plight of South Africans under Apartheid and defined the very sound of South African music. She was a Grammy winner and is recognised all over the world for signature sound and stage performances.

Ali Farka Toure

Multilingual Malian singer and guitarist, Ali Farka Toure is the finest musician to come out of Mail. His brand of music fuses African American jazz with Malian traditional music has earned him millions of fans worldwide. He is also adept in performing songs in 10 languages from Mali.

Yousssou N dour

Senegalese singer & percussionist, Youssou N dour was born in the busy city of Dakar. He is one of the pioneers of the popular music style known in Wolof as Mbalax. As a celebrated singer, songwriter, and composr he is regarded very highly internationally. His fusion of Mbalex with Cuban, Latin, Hip-hop and elements of pop has earned him an international following.

Brenda Faisse

Brenda Faissie was a legendary South African pop singer. Fondly referred to as the Queen of African Pop Brenda Faisse's story continues to inspire a whole generation of artists. Born in Langa, Cape Town, she left for Soweto, Johannesburg to pursue her dreams of being a star at the age of 18. Brenda become the lead singer of the popular township pop group Brenda & The Big Dudes. This catapulted her to stardom and by 1996 her songs were at the top of charts with each of her albums becoming multi-platinum sellers in South Africa.

King Sunny Ade

Born to a royal family in Ondo, Nigeria, King Sunny Ade is quite literally music royalty. Popularly known for playing juju music, a popular form of Nigerian music by the 80s. His band King Sunny Ade & His African Beats, a Pan African collective, touring across Africa and gaining popularity in the US  and Europe. Ade was the first person to introduce the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music.

Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube was a South African reggae musician from Johannesburg. He is credited for being the father of African reggae music. Discovering his musical talents at a young age he joined his cousin’s band at the age of 18. They later renamed the band ‘Lucky Dube & The Supersoul’ and produced their first album. Supersoul was later dropped from the name and Lucky Dube went on to produce several hit albums and tour the world.


Ladysmith Black Mambazo

A male Grammy Award winning male group from South Africa that sing the vocal style of isicathamiya & mbube. They rose to prominence after singing with Paul Simon on his album, Graceland. With their success they have become an academy of sorts teaching people all around the world about the South Africa & its culture.

Angelique Kidjo

A two time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter & activist from Benin. She is noted for her diverse musical influences & creative music videos that has earned her the title of ‘The greatest livening African Diva’.

E.T Mensah

Emmanuel Tettey Mensah, best known as E.T Mensah a multi-instrumental Ghanaian musician who is revered as the "King of Highlife" music. His band the 'The Tempos' were the toast of Ghana's nightlife in the 50s and they would tour widely across West Africa. They also had the honour of playing for the president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, on several occasions.