Top 20 Most Celebrated African Musicians & Their Country Africa has a rich and diverse musical heritage, with a wide range of genres and styles. Over the years, many African musicians have gained international recognition for their unique sound, innovative styles, and powerful messages.

In this blog post, we will explore the top 20 most celebrated African musicians.

1. Fela Kuti (Nigeria)

Fela Kuti, born in Nigeria in 1938, was a musician, composer, and political activist.

He is known as the “King of Afrobeat” and is credited with creating the genre of music known as Afrobeat, which fused traditional African rhythms with jazz, funk, and soul.

Kuti used his music as a tool to address social and political issues in Nigeria and throughout Africa.

He was a vocal critic of the Nigerian government, and his songs often criticized corruption, dictatorship, and abuse of power.

His music was also influenced by his Pan-Africanist beliefs and his desire to promote unity and liberation for the African continent.

Kuti’s music and activism made him a controversial figure in Nigeria, and he was frequently arrested and harassed by the government.

He continued to perform and speak out, even after a brutal attack on his compound in 1977, which resulted in the death of his mother and the destruction of his home and recording studio.

Fela Kuti died in 1997 at the age of 58, but his legacy continues to inspire musicians and activists around the world. His music is a testament to the power of art to promote social change and fight for justice.

2. Miriam Makeba (South Africa)

Miriam Makeba, born in South Africa in 1932, was a singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist. She was known as “Mama Africa” and was one of the most prominent voices in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Makeba’s music drew on a variety of African traditions, including South African jazz and Zulu and Xhosa folk music.

Her powerful voice and charismatic stage presence made her a beloved performer in Africa and around the world.

In 1960, Makeba’s music was banned in South Africa after she spoke out against apartheid at the United Nations.

She spent the next 30 years in exile, performing and advocating for the end of apartheid and the release of political prisoners in South Africa.

Makeba’s activism earned her numerous honors, including the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize and the Otto Hahn Peace Medal. She continued to perform and record music until her death in 2008 at the age of 76.

Her legacy as a musician and a human rights activist has inspired generations of artists and activists around the world.

3. Youssou N’Dour (Senegal)

Youssou N’Dour, born in Senegal in 1959, is a singer, songwriter, and social activist. He is considered one of the most famous and influential African musicians of all time.

N’Dour’s music draws on traditional Senegalese rhythms, as well as elements of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. His powerful voice and energetic stage presence have earned him a global following and numerous accolades.

N’Dour is also a committed social activist, using his music to address issues such as poverty, disease, and political corruption.

He founded the Youssou N’Dour Foundation, which focuses on improving healthcare and education in Senegal.

In addition to his music and activism, N’Dour has also been involved in politics.

He served as a cultural advisor to the President of Senegal and ran for president in 2012, although he was ultimately disqualified from the race.

N’Dour’s music and activism have earned him numerous awards and honors, including a Grammy Award and the Polar Music Prize.

He continues to perform and record music, and his influence on African music and culture is undeniable.

4. Hugh Masekela (South Africa)

Hugh Masekela, born in South Africa in 1939, was a trumpeter, composer, and anti-apartheid activist. He was one of the most important figures in South African music and played a key role in the development of jazz music in Africa.

Masekela’s music drew on a variety of African rhythms, as well as elements of jazz and funk. His trumpet playing was characterized by a unique sound that blended traditional African melodies with modern jazz techniques.

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Masekela was also a vocal critic of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and his music often addressed political and social issues.

He was exiled from South Africa for many years, living and performing in countries such as the United States and Ghana.

Masekela’s music and activism earned him numerous awards and honors, including a Grammy Award and the Order of Ikhamanga, one of South Africa’s highest honors.

He continued to perform and record music until his death in 2018 at the age of 78.

His legacy as a musician and an activist has inspired generations of artists and activists around the world.

5. Salif Keita (Mali)

Salif Keita, born in Mali in 1949, is a singer, songwriter, and social activist. He is known as the “Golden Voice of Africa” and is one of the most important figures in African music.

Keita’s music draws on a variety of West African traditions, including the griot tradition, which uses music to convey stories and history.

His powerful voice and energetic performances have earned him a global following and numerous awards.

Keita is also a committed social activist, using his music to raise awareness about issues such as albinism, which he himself has.

He founded the Salif Keita Global Foundation, which supports people with albinism and other disabilities in Africa.

In addition to his music and activism, Keita has also been involved in politics. He served as Mali’s Minister of Culture and Tourism in the early 1990s and has been an advocate for peace and stability in his home country.

Keita’s music and activism have earned him numerous awards and honors, including the World Music Award and the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian honor.

He continues to perform and record music, and his influence on African music and culture is immeasurable.

6. Angelique Kidjo (Benin Republic)

Top 20 Most Celebrated African Musicians & Their Country 
Angelique Kidjo

Angélique Kidjo, born in Benin in 1960, is a singer, songwriter, and social activist. She is known for her powerful voice and her ability to blend African rhythms with elements of Western pop, rock, and jazz.

Kidjo’s music draws on a variety of African traditions, including the music of her native Benin, as well as the music of other African countries.

She has also been influenced by Western musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.

Kidjo is also a committed social activist, using her music to raise awareness about issues such as women’s rights, education, and poverty.

She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has worked with organizations such as Oxfam and the Batonga Foundation, which supports girls’ education in Africa.

In addition to her music and activism, Kidjo has also been recognized for her contributions to culture and the arts.

She has won three Grammy Awards and has been honored by the governments of France, Benin, and her adopted home of the United States.

Kidjo’s music and activism have earned her a global following and have inspired generations of musicians and activists around the world. She continues to perform and record music, and her influence on African music and culture is significant.

7. Manu Dibango (Cameroon)

Manu Dibango, born in Cameroon in 1933, was a saxophonist, pianist, and composer. He was one of the most influential figures in African music and played a key role in the development of the Afro-jazz genre.

Dibango’s music drew on a variety of African rhythms, as well as elements of jazz, funk, and highlife music. His saxophone playing was characterized by a unique sound that blended traditional African melodies with modern jazz techniques.

Dibango was also a vocal advocate for African music and culture, using his music to promote African unity and to challenge stereotypes about Africa.

He collaborated with numerous musicians from around the world and was known for his dynamic live performances.

Dibango’s music and activism earned him numerous awards and honors, including a Grammy Award and the Order of Merit, France’s highest civilian honor.

He continued to perform and record music until his death in 2020 at the age of 86. His legacy as a musician and an advocate for African culture continues to inspire musicians and activists around the world.

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8. Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe)

Oliver Mtukudzi, born in Zimbabwe in 1952, was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He was one of the most important figures in Zimbabwean music and played a key role in the development of the mbira music genre.

Mtukudzi’s music drew on a variety of Zimbabwean traditions, including the mbira, a traditional thumb piano, as well as elements of jazz, reggae, and gospel music.

His songs often addressed social and political issues, and he was known for his distinctive voice and his ability to connect with audiences around the world.

Mtukudzi was also a committed social activist, using his music to raise awareness about issues such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, and human rights. He founded the Pakare Paye Arts Centre, which provides arts education and mentorship to young people in Zimbabwe.

In addition to his music and activism, Mtukudzi was also a cultural ambassador for Zimbabwe, representing his country at events around the world. He received numerous awards and honors, including the International Folk Music Award and the Order of Merit, Zimbabwe’s highest honor.

Mtukudzi continued to perform and record music until his death in 2019 at the age of 66. His legacy as a musician and an activist continues to inspire generations of artists and activists in Africa and around the world.

9. Cesaria Evora (Cape Verdean)

Cesaria Evora, born in Cape Verde in 1941, was a singer known as the “Barefoot Diva”. She was one of the most important figures in Cape Verdean music and played a key role in popularizing morna music, a style that combines West African rhythms with Portuguese influences.

Evora’s music drew on a variety of Cape Verdean traditions, as well as elements of jazz, blues, and Latin music. She was known for her soulful voice and her ability to convey deep emotion in her performances.

Evora’s rise to fame came relatively late in life, but she went on to become an international star, performing at major venues around the world and collaborating with musicians from a variety of genres.

Evora was also a cultural ambassador for Cape Verde, promoting her country’s music and culture around the world. She received numerous awards and honors, including a Grammy Award and the Order of Merit, Portugal’s highest honor.

Evora continued to perform and record music until her death in 2011 at the age of 70. Her legacy as a musician and a cultural ambassador continues to inspire artists and audiences around the world.

10. Thomas Mapfumo (Zimbabwe)

Thomas Mapfumo, born in Zimbabwe in 1945, is a singer, songwriter, and bandleader known as the “Lion of Zimbabwe”.

He played a key role in the development of Zimbabwean music and was a vocal advocate for social and political change in his country.

Mapfumo’s music drew on a variety of Zimbabwean traditions, including the mbira and the hosho, a traditional percussion instrument, as well as elements of jazz, funk, and reggae.

His lyrics often addressed social and political issues, including the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe.

Mapfumo’s music and activism earned him numerous awards and honors, including the Order of Merit, Zimbabwe’s highest honor. He was also recognized internationally, performing at major venues around the world and collaborating with musicians from a variety of genres.

Mapfumo’s influence on Zimbabwean music and culture is significant, and he continues to inspire generations of musicians and activists in Africa and around the world.

11. Ali Farka Toure (Mali)

Ali Farka Touré, born in Mali in 1939, was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter known for his contributions to West African music.

He is often referred to as the “father of African blues” for his unique blend of traditional African music and American blues.

Touré’s music drew on a variety of Malian traditions, including the music of the Sonrai and Fulani peoples, as well as elements of blues, rock, and jazz.

He was known for his virtuosic guitar playing and his soulful voice, and his music often addressed social and political issues.

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Touré’s music and activism earned him numerous awards and honors, including several Grammy Awards and the UNESCO Artist for Peace award.

He also served as a cultural ambassador for Mali, promoting his country’s music and culture around the world.

Touré continued to perform and record music until his death in 2006 at the age of 67. His legacy as a musician and an advocate for African culture continues to inspire musicians and activists in Africa and around the world.

12. Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African male choral group founded in 1960 by Joseph Shabalala.

They are known for their unique style of harmonizing and a cappella singing, and their music draws on traditional Zulu melodies and rhythms.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo has collaborated with a number of artists from a variety of genres, including Paul Simon, Josh Groban, and Dolly Parton.

They have also won numerous awards and honors, including multiple Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award.

In addition to their music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has also been involved in social and political activism, particularly in the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

They have used their music to raise awareness about social and political issues and to promote peace and reconciliation.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo continues to perform and record music, and their unique sound and powerful message have earned them a devoted following around the world.

13. Franco Luambo (Congo)

Franco Luambo was a Congolese musician and composer. He is known for his unique style of guitar playing and his fusion of Congolese rhythms with jazz and funk.

14. Baaba Maal (Senegal)

Baaba Maal is a Senegalese singer and guitarist. He is known for his unique voice and his fusion of traditional Senegalese music with contemporary styles such as rock and reggae.

15. Brenda Fassie (South Africa)

Brenda Fassie was a South African singer and songwriter. She is known for her powerful voice and her ability to blend traditional South African music with contemporary styles such as pop and R&B.

16. Lucky Dube (South Africa)

Lucky Dube was a South African musician and songwriter known for his powerful lyrics and reggae-infused sound. Born in 1964, he grew up in apartheid-era South Africa and began his music career in the late 1970s.

Dube’s music addressed a range of social and political issues, including poverty, inequality, and racism. He was a vocal advocate for social justice and used his music to inspire change and promote unity among people of different backgrounds.

Dube’s music gained international recognition in the 1990s, and he became one of the most successful African musicians of his time. He toured extensively throughout Africa and around the world, and his music continued to inspire and influence generations of musicians and fans.

Sadly, Dube was tragically killed in 2007 during an attempted carjacking in Johannesburg. However, his legacy as a musician and an advocate for social justice continues to inspire people around the world..

17. Youssoupha (Congo)

Youssoupha is a Congolese-French rapper and singer. He is known for his socially conscious lyrics that address issues such as racism, discrimination, and social inequality.

18. Amadou and Mariam (Mali)

Amadou and Mariam are a Malian musical duo. They are known for their fusion of traditional Malian music with contemporary styles such as rock and electronic music.

19. Oumou Sangaré (Mali)

Oumou Sangaré is a Malian singer and songwriter. She is known for her powerful voice and her ability to blend traditional Malian music with contemporary styles such as blues and jazz.

20. Mahmoud Ahmed (Ethiopia)

Mahmoud Ahmed is an Ethiopian singer and songwriter. He is known for his unique voice and his fusion of traditional Ethiopian music with contemporary styles such as jazz and funk.

These are just a few of the many celebrated African musicians who have made an impact on the world of music. From the powerful political messages of Fela Kuti to the unique voice of Angelique Kidjo, African music continues to inspire and influence musicians around the world