Out of Africa: The sonic diversity of the continent on show at Sónar Barcelona


If you're looking for a source of optimism in these bleak times, you could do worse than opening your ears to our neighbors to the south, and the astonishing diversity of sounds and styles emerging from the many countries of Africa. It's no secret that the continent has been responsible for some of the best music in history, but in recent years access to technology and the speed and ease of information transfer has meant that more African artists than ever before are making their mark on the global scene. Reflecting this, Sónar by Day offers an incredible line up of musicians, dj's and vocalists emblematic of this renaissance.

Afrobeats and Congotronics

One of the most exciting new acts on the line-up is without question KOKOKO! This 6-piece band, assembled and assisted by French producer Debruit, create incredible dance jams made on instruments created from recycled junk. Blending traditional polyrhythms and melodies with raw electronic sounds, the 5 piece group shows that the spirit of afrobeat is alive and well.

Talking of Afrobeat, it's a special pleasure to welcome Tony Allen, the Nigerian jazz drummer for whom the title legend hardly does justice. A driving force behind Afrobeat along with Fela Kuti, with whom he recorded and toured comprehensively in the 60's and 70's, the veteran musician will perform this year for the first time, as part of a very special double act with Detroit's Amp Fiddler at SonarDôme by Red Bull Music Academy.

African dance music from across the spectrum

It's apt that Nigeria, the home of the last great wave of popular music from the continent, should also give us it's latest star. Although born in Ghana, Mr. Eazi's astounding success in his adopted home city of Lagos has caught the attention of producers around the world, with Diplo handpicking the young phenomenon to be part of his Diplo presents showcase at this year's Sónar. With a unique sound he calls Banku music,his show on Friday is set to put any stereotypes about world music to rest.

Hailing from a very different part of the country, and operating in a very different musical field from Mr Eazi, the Ugandan DJ Kampire is another talent to watch at the festival. Closely affiliated with the ground breaking Nyegue Nyegue Tapes label and festival, her quick fire mixing and editing is given even more depth by her incredible knowledge of local and unknown dance musics - bringing a musicologists ear to a modern global style.

Finally, and before the inimitable Diplo adds his own globetrotting set to the mix, South Africa's Distruction Boyz step up at Sónar for the first time. Known for gqom, the hyperlocal mutation of house and techno that has slowly conquered the world over the last few years, this duo from Durban are masters in keeping people dancing, throwing chopped up samples and vocals over their souped up 4/4 beats.

Kwaito Master

Of course, before gqom there was Kwaito, the original South African house music style of which DJ Black Coffee is the undisputed master. The last few years have seen this exemplary dj's star rise, as his signature blend of funky, soulful house and south African grooves have won him a global following. Who better to bring the daytime celebrations to a close with a 2hr closing set at SonarVillage?

What all these artists have in common, is precisely how different they are from one another, and it's a pleasure to be able to showcase in one place, the startling heterogeneity, ingenuity and diversity of modern African music. One thing is certain - we're not in Kansas anymore: Africa is going global.