Learning from Analog Africa
The roots of so much Western Pop Culture are in Africa. A little input from the Kraftwerk of Germany and a long detour via the plantations of the Southern United States and you get the mix that is Pop. In a recent interview on Al Jazeera, Brian Eno talked of his shock of discovery when in Africa; “They were so far ahead of us musically and rhythmically”. As The Majority World exerts its influence across the planet and people reclaim their roots the gestalt of world culture is shifting dramatically.
Western commentators are surprised when hits like Gangam Style get millions of YouTube hits because they live the illusion that they, as Westerners, are at the top of some cultural pyramid looking down at the word. They want to revel in Lady Gaga being banned by Indonesia because it reinforces their role as ambassadors for cultural imperialism. Meanwhile the young and adventurous, the people who are creating the next wave of culture, are immersed in the real thing. It is twenty five years since Paul Simon’s Graceland and thirty since Peter Gabriel founded WOMAD. It is also over thirty years since Bob Marley performed “Zimbabwe” at the celebration of Zimbabwe’s independence. It is about time the trade routes of cultural influence blew our way again.
And here it comes.
As Africans enjoy every greater amounts of freedom and economic success and as they urbanize to create some of the greatest cities in the world, we are beginning to see how the world is being changed by their music and style. Young Europeans and Americans are turning to the authentic roots of African music as the internet puts Burkino Faso on line and African music steps beyond the legacy of Fela Kuti to enter the global mainstream. Hip Hop finds a rich new inspiration in Africa.
With this in mind I was thrilled when my friend Andrew Blau sent me a link to Analog Africa. It is a rich resource of music that is as modern as it is ancient. The energy of African music is in our souls, as described by Brian Eno way back in 2007: “what is tremendously exciting to me is the collision of vernacular Western music with African music. So much that I love about music comes from that collision. African music underlies practically everything I do” .
Analog Africa is a source code for new music and entertainment, driven by the foundational aesthetic and ritual of humankind. We will be experiencing more and more of it as the global economy knits us together in a web of influence. Its exciting, its sexy and it is profound. If Kraftwerk gave us the gift of machine music and The Beatles gave us the meaningful pop song then Africa is giving us back our real soul in a digital age. Check out the artwork from a pre-photoshop age, full of life and vitality. It is, as they say, very cool.