Aliaune Thiam aka Akon
He is the one African export who has cracked the coveted American music market with a bang! He is the first solo artist from Africa to have held both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts twice, and is also the only African global superstar who every big name in his genre of music wants to collaborate with. Although his rise to fame and fortune has been peppered with bad press, back home in Senegal, Akon is a source of pride and inspiration and a symbol of achievement.
Hamada Ben Amor aka “El General”
On 24 December 2010, two days after his second famous protest song, “Tunisia Our Country” was released on Youtube and one week after the protests in Tunisia began, he was arrested by Tunisian police. He was released three days later on condition he would not sing political songs again. This 22-year old rapper is the voice of Tunisian youth. After the overthrow of Ben Ali, his song “Rais Lebled” (State of State) became the anthem of the revolution. This gave him international recognition.
She is described as a must-watch new kid on the block. Nneka is mesmerising global audiences with her powerful lyrics, which some have argued reveal a wisdom beyond her years (she is 30), driving home her message and addressing the plight of the new world order and Africa’s political and social quagmire. Her songs tackle issues of capitalism, poverty and war and are often loaded with moral and biblical messages. She cites Fela Kuti and the executed Nigerian human rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa as two of her inspirations.
One of Africa’s best-known ambassadors, Youssou N’Dour has pioneered the traditional Seneralese Mbalax to become a highly acclaimed music genre, loved by people of all races globally. But N’Dour also has a big heart, as his humanitarian work testifies. A multi-award winner – which includes a converted Grammy – N’Dour is an ardent social and human rights advocate who has set up his Youth Network for Development to help improve the lives of children in his country and Africa at large. He has also been the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1991.
One of Africa’s most prolific and world-famous singers and performers, Kidjo has created music that is enjoyed worldwide. Close to her heart are issues that promote girls’ and women’s rights. Her music is not just dynamic and uplifting. “She has translated her distinctive work in the arts to that of philanthropy, by promoting education for girls in Africa through her foundation, Batonga.” She is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has recently become one of the famous faces in the Rotary International campaign against polio.
At the moment there is simply no African female musician quite like Angelique Kidjo. A true star of world music, she crosses musical boundaries and, in doing so, seeks to unite different world cultures through her music.