Beyond Fela: A Guide To Early African Electronic Music

Africaine 808 highlight a selection of pioneering dance tracks, from Nigerian funk iconoclast William Onyeabor to Shangaan disco from South Africa.

Call it what you will, but there’s no denying that West African funk or boogie will light up a European dance floor—and no one knows that better than Nomad and Dirk Leyers. Operating as Africaine 808, the Berliners are particularly adept at digging out and deploying electrified cuts from throughout the African continent. As the duo told Juno recently, their party Vulkandance came from a desire to inject some life and color into the Berlin club scene, which was in the chilly grips of minimal techno at the time of its conception. Nearly seven years later, the party is still going strong, and many of the tracks featured in the guide below have been tried and tested on Vulkandance dance floors.

The exhuberant mix of styles and textures represented in Africaine 808’s selections, which range from Ghanaian proto-rap to South African “bubblegum” pop, are also representative of the pair’s debut album, Basar. Out on Golf Channel in February, the LP relishes in polyrhythms sounded throughout Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The pair have also expanded their live show to feature percussionist Eric Owusu of the Ebo Taylor Band and drummer Dodo N’Kishi. For those looking to go straight to the source though, reissue outlets like Sofrito, Analog Africa, Soundway and Kindred Spirits are good places to start.

Header image of Francis Bebey by Pierre René-Worms


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