Technology and Cultural Exchange: African Groups, Global Roots

Global cultural exchange didn't begin with YouTube or broadband or mobile phones, but connection technologies sure are speeding up that exchange, and giving artists around the world to collaborate and learn from each other with an unprecedented speed and ease. A case study in this phenomenon is Just a Band, a group based in Kenya who are earning some well-deserved fame for their music, which is a truly global blend of American hip hop, European electronic and West African Afrobeat. I first discovered them with their 2009 single Usinibore.

The video for their song Ha-He, which Just a Band released last month, has gone viral in Kenya, spurring a full blown internet meme around "Makmende" a fictional superhero. Makmende might be aptly described as a Kenyan Chuck Norris… i.e.: "Makmende can never have a heart attack, his heart is not so foolish to attack him." The video calls to mind the kung fu blaxploitation films of the '70s and '80s... at any rate, it's a funny video, a fun song, and an interesting example of a Kenyan group drawing on global roots:

Another terrific example of this is Malian group Amadou and Mariam-- "the blind couple of Bamako." The ancestry music has done a few round-trips between Africa and the Americas, drawing heavily on American Blues, which of course has its roots in the work songs of West African slaves, as well as Afrobeat and West African folk. If you haven't heard their 2005 album, Dimanche a Bamako, I cannot recommend it highly enough. This video is, again, a pastiche of different styles and influences, but the song carries a universal, and powerfully positive message.

Hope you enjoy, and happy Friday!