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Top 9 Greatest African Music Legends



The greatest African music legends of all time ever to grace our continent with their talents have done so with much hard work put into their preparations and this is evident in the delivery of their music to the watching world.

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The continent through these music icons, has been able to reach out to the world with great hits produced by these sons and daughters of the soil and their songs, when played, remain evergreen in our hearts.

There are a number of good musicians that have come out from the African continent but we will look at the greatest African music legends and pay tribute to nine of them who have distinguished themselves in their chosen music careers.

In the paragraphs below, there is a list of top 9 African musicians of all time, read through and make use of the comments section to share your thoughts on these.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Son of a Former Clergyman in the Anglican Church, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Fela was born in 1938. On his day, Fela was above his fellows when it came to delivering music of the highest level. He is top dog amongst the greatest African music of all time in the history of music on the continent.

Whether he won a Grammy Award or not, Fela is highly revered in Nigeria and Africa as is evident in the Felabration festival organized posthumously in his honour.

Fela is widely known for his ‘high octane performances’ and his music addresses the ills in the Nigerian society and Africa at large. It also addressed the political situation in Nigeria at the time when Nigeria was ruled by military dictators. Fela’s music is still very relevant in today’s Nigeria.

To many, he is widely regarded as the greatest African artiste to have ever graced music. Fela was a multi-instrumentalist, musician and composer who performed in Yoruba and Nigerian Pidgin.

He was the originator of the genre of music known as Afrobeat, this genre is currently being propagated by his sons Femi and Seun Kuti. Fela died in 1997.

Lucky Dube

Lucky Dube is widely considered one of the greatest African Music legends and rightly so. Born in 1964, Lucky Dube is undoubtedly Africa’s greatest reggae export. He was a South African musical legend that took reggae music to the next level in South Africa and Africa in general.

He recorded 22 albums in a career that spanned 25 years and during that time, he sang in Zulu, Afrikaans and the English language.

Lucky Dube won the hearts of many with his music and this led to comparisons to Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae musician considered by many as the greatest reggae artiste of all time.

Lucky Dube’s music addressed social vices and other ills in the society. He was sadly killed in 2007 after his assailants thought him to be someone else but his music lives on.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba is one of Africa’s best when it comes to music. Born in 1932, she began singing professionally in the 1950s.

Along with Angelique Kidjo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Brenda Fassie, she is considered to be one of the most popular female artistes to emerge from Africa.

A Grammy Award winner, and often widely regarded as ‘Mama Africa’, her music is still very much popular around the world due to her unique music style and stage performances.

Miriam Makeba’s music addressed the socio-political situation in South Africa during the Apartheid regime and to this day, her music is still very relevant in the society. Makeba died in 2008.

Ali Farka Toure

Ali Farka Toure was born in 1939. He hailed from Mali and he was a multi-instrumentalist renowned for his music brand which fuses African-American jazz with Malian traditional music.

He is considered to be one of the greatest musicians from Mali who contributed largely to the propagation of African music abroad and he is still widely celebrated to this day.

Ali Farka Toure has two Grammy Awards to his name. He died in 2006.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

It will be very unfair to mention the greatest musicians in Africa without mentioning Yvonne Chaka Chaka. She was born in 1965. She follows a long list of South African musical legends that have graced Africa with their talents.

Along with Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie and Angelique Kidjo, Yvonne is considered one of the most respected African female legends of all time. Apart from being a singer and songwriter, she is an entrepreneur, a humanitarian and a teacher, and she is fondly called the “Princess of Africa”. The name stuck with her after her 1990 music tour.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been active for the major part of her music career which has spanned 27 years and she is known throughout Africa and outside the shores of our great continent.

Some of her notable songs include, “I’m Burning Up” “Thank You Mr Dj”, “I Cry For Freedom”, “Motherland” and the ever-green “Umqobothi” (“African Beer”).

Yvonne Chaka Chaka has indeed been a joy to watch on the screens over the years.

Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N’Dour is a brilliant Senegalese singer, songwriter, composer and percussionist who was born in 1959 in Dakar, the Capital of Senegal. He was also the Minister of Tourism in Senegal between 2012 and 2013. He is one of the pioneers of the music genre known as Mbalax.

N’dour is widely celebrated for his contributions to music in Africa and beyond and his exceptional fusion of Mbalax with Cuban, Latin, Hip-hop and elements of pop in his music is second to none.

Brenda Fassie

Brenda Fassie was a South African pop star. She joins a long list of illustrious South Africans who have graced this list of greatest African music legends of all time. She was fondly known as the Queen of African Pop or the Black Madonna.

Brenda Fassie’s songs were hit songs, most especially, “Weekend Special” and “Too Late For Mama”. Her albums were multi-platinum sellers in South Africa.

She lived a very short life and died at the age of 39 (1964-2004) due to her addiction to drugs but even in her death, her songs continue to speak and warm their way into the hearts of many.

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo is a talented and evergreen Grammy Award winner. She is one of the most respected female artistes in Africa. She hails from the Republic of Benin and she was born to a Beninese father and Yoruba Mother in Cotonou on July 14, 1960.

Her hit songs include “Wombolombo”, “We Are One”, “Malaika” to mention but a few. She is very fluent in English, French, Fon and Yoruba and she sings in all four languages.

Kidjo has two Grammy Awards to her name.

King Sunny Ade

Born in 1946 and still going strong, King Sunny Ade is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and a pioneer of modern world music. He is also referred to as King of Juju music.

Sunny Ade, along with Fela Kuti are pioneers of different genres of music in Nigeria and they are both kings in their respective careers. While one founded Juju music, the other founded Afrobeat and together, they are so far, Nigeria’s biggest music exports to the world.

Other notable Musical legends not on the list above include:

Onyeka Onwenu

Bright Chimezie

Papa Wemba and

Koffi Olomide.

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