Few arts have developed the idea of Afropean as an aesthetic like music.
Presented here are ten particularly beautiful videos born from a musician’s vision in which something fresh emerges from what W.E.B DuBois described as the ‘double consciousness’ of the black diaspora experience. They are also videos that transport us through time and space, and explore ideas of black travel out of wanderlust, rather than usual notions of illegal immigration and displacement. If nothing else, they’re great escapist visuals for a cold Monday night to help ease us all into late autumn/early winter.
Maxi Priest ‘Close To You’
Maxi Priest is a British-Jamaican artist who gained popularity in the late ’80s as a pioneer of fusion reggae, a mixture of smooth quiet-storm soul and rare groove moods with reggae. This violet video, with influences of Nubian North Africa, perfectly captures the essence of his sound – soulful and tinged with the tropics.
Orelha Negra ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’
Orelha Negra are Portugal’s premier soul band, and this video is a stunning love letter to Europe’s oldest city, and the place where their music is born: Lisbon.
The Pharcyde ‘She Said’ (J Dilla Rmx)
A bit of a cheat, this one. Yes The Pharcyde are from the West Coast of America, but their brand of alternative Hip-Hop found a home in Europe in the 1990s, probably more than it did in the States, and here is the band on tour in Amsterdam. The visuals are beautiful and capture the sentiment of this J-Dilla remix.
Sade ‘Sweetest Taboo’
Sade Adu has always personified elegance and effortlessly weaves her multiculturalism into something completely unique. Of middle-class Nigerian and British heritage, Sade was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, but moved to Greater London with her parents when she was a child. Sade songwriter and band member Stewart Mathewman was instrumental in creating the neo-soul movement, and went on to produce Maxwell’s classic ‘Urban Hang Suite’. The video sums up their sound, splicing the melancholy with the romantic.
Zap Mama ‘Brrrlak’
Marie Daulne of Zap Mama might well be credited with being the first person to coin the term ‘Afropean’ when she released her ‘Adventures in Afropea’ LP in the early ’90s. Her father was a Belgian man, tragically killed by Simba Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her Mother was of Bantu heritage and it is through listening to her African chants and songs that Marie was first inspired to create her own sound. Born and raised in Brussels’ Congolese quarter ‘Matonge’, Marie started her musical journey with an acappela quintet, but eventually made her transition into more funk and soul influenced sounds and also took on the ‘Zap Mama’ moniker for herself. This video for their first single featuring the original line up ‘bumpin’ in the desert’ can’t fail to put a smile on your face…
Joy Denalane ‘Was Auch Immer’
Has the harsh German language ever sounded so mellifluous? Joy Denalane has German and South African roots and grew up in the hip Kreuzberg district of Berlin, before it was hip, of course. This video isn’t filmed on an exotic desert island, but Joy’s vocals and the colours she brings somehow makes Berlin seem as Tropical as Havana!
Kaoma, the French-Brazilian pop group with the song everybody knows and loves. The music video is one of the most joyful ever made, and references the idea of the Lambada being a ‘forbidden dance’.
Les Nubians ‘Makeda’
Hélène and Célia Faussart grew up in Paris but are heavily influenced by the sounds and styles of their motherland Chad. They broke onto the international scene with their classic album ‘Princesses Nubians’ which became a surprise hit with the American neo-soul crowd. Undoubtedly influenced by their Afropean forerunners Zap Mama and Sade, they popularised the ‘Afropean’ term more than any other act during the 1990s. Another video based in a city, but with beautiful colours and cherry blossoms.
Ayo ‘Life is Real’
I interviewed Ayo, a tall, stunning woman of Nigerian and Romany heritage a few years ago in Paris, and she told me her tumultuous life story with an incredible lightness of being. Her Mother, a Romany gypsy, was a lifelong drug addict and Ayo was brought up mainly by her father in Germany. Thus her music, which she describes as ‘African Gypsy Soul’ has the various influences you’d expect from a lifelong traveler…from folk to reggae, soul and Afrobeat. This video was filmed in Nigeria and lilts along just like Ayo’s music.
Buika ‘No Habrá Nadie En El Mundo’
Latin Grammy award winning singer Buika grew up in Mallorca, Spain and has, in my opinion, one of the most beautifully rich voices in contemporary music. African and Spanish rhythms have always worked well together, and with Buika’s voice at the helm the combination is enough to melt your soul!
Written by Johny Pitts