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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July 2005, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Africa's shining music stars
On the eve of the Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park, the BBC News website profiles a small sample of the many big African artists who some critics say should have been included at the show.

Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn was among those who criticised the main concert line-up as "too Anglo-Saxon".

Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour is due to play at the main London show, and he will also join other African artists at a smaller Africa Calling Live 8 concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall, on the same day.

ALPHA BLONDY

Reggae singer Alpha Blondy was born Seydou Koné on 1 January 1953 in Dimbokoro, Ivory Coast.

Alpha Blondy
Alpha Blondy was nominated for a Grammy award in 2003

Blondy - whose name means First Bandit - has become one of West Africa's most successful artists. His powerfully political lyrics heavily influenced by the reggae stars of Jamaica.

Blondy sings mainly in Dioula, French and English - but sometimes in Arabic or Hebrew - about struggle, corruption, peace and love.

International recognition was confirmed in 1987 with a US tour and his 1992 album Masada was released in 50 countries.

In 2003, Merci - his first studio album in nearly four years - earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album of the Year.

AMADOU AND MARIAM

Amadou and Mariam - once billed as The Blind Couple of Mali - are rising stars on the African music scene.

Amadou and Mariam
Amadou and Mariam have been playing together since the 1970s

The middle-aged couple may have been singing and playing together since the 1970s, but widespread success has not been overnight.

They met at the Institute for the Blind in Bamako, Mali, in 1975, when Amadou was 21 and Mariam 17. Both turned to music, with Amadou learning guitar.

While they have enjoyed moderate success in Africa and parts of Europe, Amadou and Mariam's new album Dimanche à Bamako entered the top 20 in France earlier this year, clocking-up sales of more than 100,000.

ANGELIQUE KIDJO

The music of Grammy-nominated singer Angelique Kidjo combines influences from her childhood in the west African country of Benin with elements of R&B, jazz, funk, Latino and electronic pop.

Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo will be performing at the Eden Project

Now based in Paris, the soulful singer/songwriter rose to international fame on the release of her debut album Pretty in 1988.

The New York Times hailed Kidjo for her for "growls and swoops that link African tradition to American soul music".

Kidjo has made nine albums throughout her career, working with a diverse group of international artists like Santana, Gilberto Gil, Dave Matthews and Joe Galdo of the Miami Sound Machine.

BAABA MAAL

Senegalese star Baaba Maal was one of a number of African artists who queried the Live 8 London line-up.

Baaba Maal
Baaba Maal is one of Africa's biggest singing stars

He told The Independent newspaper he found it "patronising" that more African artists were not asked to get involved.

Maal, who recently appeared at Glastonbury, is one of Africa's biggest musical stars.

As teenager he was a member of the Dakar's 70-piece orchestra, Asly Fouta and spent two years studying music at the prestigious Paris Conservatoire.

The name of his band is Daande Lenol - meaning 'The Voice Of The Race' - and his music is a fusion of Western and traditional African styles.

MANU DIBANGO

Cameroon-born Manu Dibango cut his musical teeth in the jazz world of 1950s Brussels after completing his education in France.

Manu Dibango
Manu Dibango is a veteran on the African music scene

Already a proficient saxophonist and classically-trained pianist, he developed his fusion of jazz and Cameroonian makossa music.

In 1968 at the age of 35, Dibango recorded his self-titled first album Manu Dibango. Two more albums followed.

But it was the recording of the instrumental tune Soul Makossa that would catapult him into the big time. In 1973, a New York radio DJ played the tune and 30,000 imported copies were sold within a week.

Dibango went on to be nominated for a Grammy award for the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Of The Year.

In 1980 he was signed to the UK label Island Records and recorded to reggae-inspired albums. Since then he has notched up numerous Afro-jazz albums.

MORY KANTE

Mory Kante, 55, from Guinea, made a name for himself fusing the ancient sounds of the kora - a West African harp - with US hip-hop and dance music.

Mory Kante
Kante is well-known in France

His album, Courougnégné, was a huge hit in Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, and also among the West African community in Paris.

He moved to Paris with some members of Les Miliues Branches and continued to experiment with the US dance music sound.

His album À Paris made him known in the UK and US.

In 2000 a remixed version of his song Ye Ke Ye Ke was featured on the soundtrack to the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach.

OUMOU SANGARE

Oumou Sangare will be one of many artists playing at the Johannesburg Live 8 concert, Africa Standing Tall Against Poverty, on 2 July.

Oumou Sangare
Oumou Sangare will be singing at the Johannesburg Live 8 concert

The Mali-born singer has dedicated her career and lyrics to informing the world about the unequal lives of women in her home country.

Her classic debut Moussolou (Women) was released in 1989 and went on to become one of the highest selling cassettes in the country's music history.

It was soon snapped up by a record company for international distribution. Sangare went on to tour the world, win the UNESCO Music Prize and raise a family.

The 37-year-old has been quiet on the international scene in recent years, but a compilation album was released in 2003.

RACHID TAHA

Born in 1958 in Algeria, Rachid Taha, grew up in France in the poverty-stricken, working-class immigrant community around Lyon.

Rachid Taha
Rachid Taha is heavily influenced by Algerian folk music

In the mid-80s he formed punk band Carte de Sejour, or Green Card, and made a splash with an acerbic version of the patriotic Douce France.

Since going solo in 1990, he has reflected a much wider range of cultures.

Taha's music blends his north African roots with rock, punk and electronica and his latest album, Tekitoi, includes a cover of The Clash's Rock The Kasbah. He is currently on tour in the US.

SALIF KEITA

Born in Mali, in 1949, Salif Keita is credited as one of the original Afro-pop stars.

Salif Keita
Salif Keita divides his time between Paris and Mali

In 1970, at the age of 18, Keita left his home town of Djoliba for Mali's capital, Bamako, where he spent time as a street musician.

In 1973, he joined the band Les Ambassadeurs with guitarist Kante Manfila. Their fusion of traditional Malian music and western electronic sounds led to huge success in their home country.

When Les Ambassadeurs split in 1984, Keita moved to Paris to launch a solo career. But it was his album Amen that made Keita the first African band leader to be nominated for a Grammy Award.

He was originally on the bill for the Eden Project Live 8 concert, but is now due to appear at the Johannesburg show.

SOUAD MASSI

Algerian singer Souad Massi began her music career in Algers in the early 1990s.

Souad Massi
Algerian Souad Massi lives and works in Paris

After a brief flirtation with a flamenco band, Massi joined successful rock band Atakor who were influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, INXS and U2.

In 1997, Atakor gave Massi their backing to release a cassette of her own songs, entitled Souad.

Her songs came to the attention of the music world and in 1999 she was invited to Paris to perform at a concert entitled Women from Algeria. She won a recording contract and has lived there ever since.

Since moving to Paris, the 32-year-old has recorded two well-received albums, Raoui and Deb, with sounds and influences ranging from Pakistan, American folk rock, Spanish flamenco, Arabic lutes and African instruments.




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