East African Music - African Radio

Kenyan Discography

Various Artists

Guitar Paradise of East Africa, Earthworks STEW21CD
Kenya Dance Mania, Earthworks STEW24CD

CD Image:  Guitar Paradise of East AfricaCD Image:  Kenya Dance Mania
These two CDs provide an excellent introduction to Kenya's various styles, although not always the best or most representative material from the artists. Highlights on Guitar Paradise include the classic hit "Shauri Yako" by Super Mazembe as well as Kabaselleh Ochieng's "Achi Maria." On Kenya Dance Mania are some Kenyan favorites of the 70s and 80s including Les Wanyika's "Sina Makosa" and Maroon Commandos' "Charonyi Ni Wasi."

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The Music of Kenya and Tanzania [The Rough Guide]
World Music Network RGNET 1007 CD

CD Image:  The Rough Guide, The Music of Kenya and Tanzania
This is an excellent introduction to the music of Kenya and Tanzania. It samples traditional and popular music, including taarab from the coastal region. Kenyan artists include Simba Wanyika (of Tanzanian origin), Victoria Kings, D.O. Misiani and Shirati Jazz, Abana ba Nasery, Henry Makobi, Ogwang Lelo Okoth with Paddy J. Onono, and Zein Musical Party. The CD notes are edited from articles by Werner Graebner and Douglas Paterson contained in the Rough Guide to World Music.

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The Nairobi Beat: Kenyan Pop Music Today, Rounder 5030

CD Image:  The Nairobi Beat
I think this is a great compilation of Kenyan music from the mid-1980s but--perhaps I'm biased. They're all my selections, favorites of mine from the mid-1980s that I compiled and licensed for Rounder Records. The emphasis is on the regional benga styles: Luo, Kikuyu, Kamba, and Luhya, as well as a couple of urban dance tunes. The CD notes (which I wrote) are extensive (dare I say, excellent).
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The Most Beautiful Songs of Africa, ARC Music EUCD 1239

CD Image: The Most Beautiful Songs of Africa
At first glance, the title and "touristy" photographs on the cover would be enough to turn away any serious collector of East African music. In fact, it's quite a good collection of (largely) 1970s Kenyan and Tanzanian music. The mix is totally eclectic with the Conglolese dance sounds of Super Mazembe (with "Kasongo" and "Shauri Yako") and Bopol Mansiamina, taarab music of the coast, Tanzanian dance music from Afro 70 and Western Jazz, not to mention one of Miriam Makeba's best versions of the Swahili song, "Malaika."

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Before Benga Vol. 1: Kenya Dry, Original Music OMCD 021
Before Benga Vol. 2: The Nairobi Sound, Original Music OMCD 022

CD Image:  Before Benga Volume 1CD Image:  Before Benga Volume 2
Both the acoustic collection on Kenya Dry and the electric Nairobi Sound provide an excellent cross-section of guitar music from the 1950s to the 1970s. These are styles which have largely disappeared.



The Secret Museum of Mankind: Music of East Africa
Ethnic Music Classics: 1925-48,

CD Image:  The Secret Museum of Mankind, Music of East Africa
This is a collection of 25 recordings made between 1925 and 1948 from present day Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Congo.

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Top Hits from Kenya, GEFRACO KL 0100

CD Image:  Top Hits from Kenya
As the title says, this is a compilation of top hits from Kenya. Unfortunately, what it doesn't say is that these hits represent a very narrow segment of the Kenyan market: tourist music. This CD does not present the broader pop music spectrum in Kenya. The artists are unnamed but most of them are/were actively working in tourist entertainment at the Kenya coast. I don't want to suggest that Kenyans don't enjoy this music too, but for the most part, it has an international pop sound quite different from what most Kenyan bands are playing. Tourists who have experienced the beach hotels and their music may find this CD taking them right back to the beach (or the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi). Others, interested in a cross-section of Kenyan pop, might prefer one of the other CDs listed in this section.

See the Top Hits from Kenya CD page for more details about the songs and performers.

To contact Douglas Paterson, send email to DPaterson@EastAfricanMusic.com.

Last updated December 30, 1999.

East African Music - African Radio

Copyright © 1999 Douglas B. Paterson, All Rights Reserved.