It is important to realize that music is much more than entertainment.  Music says something about our heritage, our culture, and the kinds of people we strive to be.  Also important to note, music exists with a wide variation throughout the world.  Sure, the British invasion was one great example America witnessed. But let’s take a look at some contemporary acts you may not be familiar with.  In the spirit of representing the diversity of cultures and heritages that meet in Africa, here are five notable African musicians that you should be adding to your iPod.

1. P-Square

If you are in the mood for some R&B, check out Nigerian duo P-Square.  Peter and Paul Okoye are identical twins, hence the name P-Square.  With six albums (including a greatest hits compilation), and a record deal with famous Senegalese-American rapper/singer Akon, P-Square has quite the resume.

2. Koffi Olomide

Hailing from the Congo, Olomide is known for combining traditionally Latin grooves with African dance music.  In particular, Olomide’s style is considered to be soukous, which has its roots in rumba.  His lyricism and vocals have been highly praised by music critics across the globe.

3. D’banj

D’banj’s blend of Afro-Beats with electronic music caught the eye of hip-hop virtuoso Kanye West.  In 2011, D’banj signed with West’s GOODMusic label.  He is also well known for his humanitarian efforts as Nigeria’s Youth Ambassador for Peace to the United Nations.

4. Jose Chameleone

Jose Chameleone is a Ugandan musician known for mixing folk music with reggae and Latin influences.  Singing in English, Swahili, and Luganda (the major language of Uganda), Chameleone shows how he can “blend in” with multiple cultures.

5. Yvonne Chaka Chaka

A South African singer of the Mbaqanga genre, Chaka Chaka is both a musician and a scholar who teaches literature at the University of South Africa.  Mbaqanga is a style sometimes considered to be like jazz, but has roots in traditional Zulu music.  Chaka Chaka has been active in the South African music scene since 1985, and has a tremendous catalog.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: All Africa, The African Economist
Photo: LifeStyle

Art is a powerful device that can evoke thought, respect and cultural insight. In the case of African art, many outsiders are given cultural insight into traditions and practices in Africa. Art can help provide new perspectives, and can even change the way one sees the world. Below are seven African art exhibits that provide insight into Africa’s history and culture while also commemorating the events, traditions and people of Africa. Most of the exhibits listed are being hosted in the Museum for African Art in New York.

1. Dogon Now: Masks in Motion

This exhibit demonstrates the cultural tradition of the Dogon people of Mali through a performative representation of the Dogon masquerade tradition. The exhibit utilizes multimedia and elaborate masks to recreate the ceremonies and practices of the Dogon masquerade.

2. Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria

This exhibit captures life in Yoruba of West Africa from the ancient city’s civilization from the 12th-15th century. Dynasty and Divinity brings to life the artistic achievements of an ancient city and ancient civilization.

3. A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art

Devoted to the life and death of the Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, this exhibit displays his life through urban art. The exhibit includes 50 paintings by contemporary artists inspired by Lumumba’s life and work in the Congo.

4. African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde

On display in this exhibit are a number of African artifacts that were found by the New York avant-garde between the 1910s and 1920s. The African artifacts are used to show the artistic vigor of New York in the mid 1910s.

5. Desert Jewels

Desert Jewels is an exhibit that displays traditional North African jewelry, highlighting the cultural and socioeconomic diversity in North African societies. The exhibit displays everything from simple adornments worn by children to opulent necklaces worn by wealthy women. Desert Jewels is a collection of over three decades.

6. Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art

This exhibit presents a series of coiled baskets made in places across Africa as well as in South Carolina and Georgia. Grass Roots highlights not only the functional aspect of the coiled baskets, but also the beauty and meticulousness with which they are made.

7. Jane Alexander: Surveys

Well-known South African artist, Jane Alexander, exhibits work that is both compelling and disturbing in her exhibit, Surveys. The exhibit contains photographs and animal-human sculptures that capture the disfigurations Alexander has seen in South Africa. The thought-provoking display raises questions about human nature, self vs. other and hybridity between that which is familiar and that which is grotesquely foreign.

– Chante Owens
Sources: Museum for African Art, he Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: Tumblr