(special thanks to Jesse Filoteo for the annotations)
Ali Ibrahim "Ali Farka" Touré (October 31, 1939 – March 6, 2006) was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist. His music is regarded as a point of intersection between traditional Malian music and North American blues. Touré was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and number 37 on Spin magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Toumani Diabaté (August 10, 1965-) is a Malian kora player. In addition to performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other international styles.
2. “Upside Down” (Edit)
The band Afrika ‘70 (formerly the Nigeria ‘70 formerly know as Koola Lobitos) was established by the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, Afrobeat pioneer, and human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997). Having released their 1977 hit album Zombie, the group was the target of criticism and attack by the Nigerian Government.
Tinariwen (meaning “deserts” in Tamasheq) is a Grammy Award-winning group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. Formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, the group first started to gain a following in 2001 with the release of The Radio Tisdas Sessions, performances at Festival au Désert in Mali, and the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Their popularity rose internationally with the release of the critically acclaimed album Aman Iman in 2007. NPR calls the group "music's true rebels”, and Slate calls the group, "rock 'n' roll rebels whose rebellion, for once, wasn't just metaphorical."
4. “Desert Melodies”
Songhoy Blues is a desert blues music group from Timbuktu, Mali. The band was formed in Bamako after they were forced to leave their homes during the civil conflict and the imposition of Sharia law. The band released their debut album Music in Exile with Transgressive Records in February 2015 while Julian Casablancas' Cult Records partnered with Atlantic Records to release the album in North America in March 2015. The group is one of the principal subjects of the documentary film They Will Have To Kill Us First.
The Algerian Tuareg desert rock sextet Imarhan, meaning ‘the ones I care about’, was formed in 2008 by a loose collection of friends who played together. Their music reflects their cultural and generational backgrounds; dry guitar riffs, pop melodies and pan-African rhythms which draw on traditional Tuareg music, African ballads, and the pop/rock the band heard growing up.
6. “Tisnant an Chatma”
The band Tamikrest (Meaning junction, alliance, or the future in Tamasheq) was formed in 2006 by a group of musicians who belong to the Tuareg people. They mix traditional African music with Western rock and pop influences and sing in Tamasheq. Their music is characterized by electric guitars and vocals, youyous, bass, drums, djembé and other percussion instruments.
Chiwoniso Maraire was a Zimbabwean singer, songwriter, and exponent of Zimbabwean mbira music. She was the daughter of Zimbabwean Mbira Master and teacher Dumisani Maraire. She describes the mbira, “- like a large xylophone. It is everywhere in Africa under different names: sanza, kalimba, etc. For us in Zimbabwe it is the name for many string instruments. There are many kinds of mbiras. The one that I play is called the nyunga nyunga, which means sparkle-sparkle.”
Omar “Bombino” Moctar is an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger. His music frequently addresses Tuareg geopolitical concerns and is sung in the Tuareg language of Tamasheq. He is also a lead member of the group Bombino. The band is the subject of the documentary film Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion.
9. “Bul Ma Miin”
Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Wolof, and Pachanga band. Organized in 1970 as a multi-ethnic, multinational club band, Orchestre Baobab adapted the craze for Cuban music in West Africa to Wolof Griot culture and the Mandinga musical traditions of the Casamance. One of the dominant African bands of the 1970s, they were overshadowed and broke up in the 1980s, only to reform in 2001 after interest in their recordings grew in Europe.
10. “Mona Ki Ngi Xica”
José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho or Bonga, (born September 5, 1942 in Kipiri, Angola) is a folk and semba singer and songwriter from Angola who started his music career at 15. He has released over 30 albums, singing in Portuguese and traditional Angolan languages. His tracks are a mixture of Portuguese folk sounds, semba, kizomba and latin elements.
Rokia Traoré (born January 26, 1974) is a Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Her 2003 album Bowmboï won the Critics Award category at the BBC Radio 3 for World Music in 2004, and the album Tchamantché (2008) won Victoires de la Musique Album of the Year in 2009.
12. “Soul Makossa”
Emmanuel N'Djoké Dibango (born 12 December 1933) is a Cameroonian musician and songwriter who plays saxophone and vibraphone. He developed a musical style fusing jazz, funk, and traditional Cameroonian music and is best known for his 1972 single, "Soul Makossa". His father is part of the Yabassi ethnic group and his mother was part of the Duala.
13. “Sweet Mother”
Nico Mbarga (1 January 1950 – 24 June 1997), better known as Prince Nico Mbarga, was a highlife musician, born to a Nigerian mother and a Cameroonian father in Abakaliki, Nigeria. He is renowned for his hit song "Sweet Mother", recorded with his band Rocafil Jazz.
14. “Grazing in the Grass”
Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018) was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer. He has been described as "the father of South African jazz." Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as "Soweto Blues" and "Bring Him Back Home". He also had a number 1 US pop hit in 1968 with his version of "Grazing in the Grass".
15. “Wish You Were Here”
Alpha Blondy (born Seydou Koné; January 1, 1953 in Dimbokro, Ivory Coast) is a reggae singer and international recording artist. Many of his songs are politically and socially motivated, and are mainly sung in his native language of Dioula, French and in English, though he occasionally uses other languages such as Arabic or Hebrew.
16. “No Mercy in This Land”
Benjamin Chase Harper (October 28, 1969- ) is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Harper plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, soul, reggae and rock music, and is known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances, and activism. Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner, with awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album in 2005 and Best Blues Album in 2014.
Charles Douglas "Charlie" Musselwhite (January 31, 1944- ) is an American electric blues harmonica player and bandleader and one of the non-black bluesmen who came to prominence in the early 1960s, along with Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, or bands such as Canned Heat. Though he has often been identified as a "white bluesman", he claims Native American heritage. Musselwhite was reportedly the inspiration for the character played by Dan Aykroyd in the Blues Brothers.
17. “Up on the Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur)”
Robert Anthony Plant, CBE (August 20, 1948- ) is an English singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin.
Plant is regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll. In 2006, Heavy Metal magazine Hit Parader named Plant the "Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time". In 2008, Rolling Stone editors ranked him number 15 on their list of the 100 best singers of all time. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked Plant the greatest of all lead singers.
18. “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”
Paul Frederic Simon (October 13, 1941- ) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Simon's musical career has spanned seven decades, with his fame and commercial success beginning as half of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, which was formed in 1964 with Art Garfunkel.
After their breakup, Simon began a successful solo career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, recording three highly acclaimed albums over the next five years. In 1986, he released Graceland, an album inspired by South African township music, which sold 14 million copies worldwide on its release and remains his most popular solo work.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 was selected as one of the "100 People Who Shaped the World" by Time magazine. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine named Simon as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. In 2015, he was named as one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time by Rolling Stone.
19. “There Will Be Time”
Mumford & Sons are a British band formed in 2007. The band consists of Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboard, piano, synthesizer), Winston Marshall (vocals, electric guitar, banjo) and Ted Dwane (vocals, bass guitar, double bass).
Baaba Maal (12 November 1953- ) is a Senegalese singer and guitarist born in Podor, on the Senegal River. Maal plays acoustic guitar, percussion, and sings primarily in Pulaar. He is also the foremost promoter of the traditions of the Pulaar-speaking people, who live on either side of the Senegal River in the ancient Senegalese kingdom of Futa Tooro.
20. “Merciful God”
Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye MFR, popularly known as King Sunny Adé, (September 22, 1946) is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music. He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time. In March 2017, he was appointed as the "Change Begins With Me" campaign ambassador by the Nigerian minister of Information Lai Mohammed.