Internet Radio Review: African Music Radio


Ralph Graves

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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There's more to African music than the vuvuzela. While the recent World Cup match in South Africa brought that instrument to the fore, African music is much richer, innovative and diverse than many in the West realize. But it only takes a few hours of listening to the Internet radio station African Music Radio (AMR) to set the record straight.

AMR plays a wide variety of African music, most of which can be characterized as Afropop. The genre is a blending of Western rock, blues and R&B with African musical traditions. The ubiquity of American music provided a common frame work for artists throughout the continent to adopt to their own vernacular. So Afropop can refer to the Flamenco-influenced music of Morroco, the Middle Eastern sounds of Egypt and the Sudan, the call-and-response choruses of South Africa, Kenyan hip hop and more.

A good portion of the music played on AMR is sung in English, although many artists also mix in their native language as well. The station features African artists that have achieved international fame, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Zap Mama. Along with those mainstays, though are regional favorites as well. A recent listening session had the following lineup:  Cesaria Evora, the "barefoot diva" of Cape Verde, Malian blues artists Amadou & Mariam, the Senegalese singer and percussionist Youssou n'Dour, and Lebo M from South Africa.

Whether they're playing ballads or dance music, the energy level remains high on AMR. There are no DJs,  but the station's website does have a playlist of the last fifty songs played, so you can tracks down the artists that strike your fancy.

If you haven't experienced Afropop before, AMR is a good place to start. You'll hear the familiar instruments of Western pop, but used in slightly unusual ways. You'll hear a much richer rhythmic palette than Top 40 usually provides, and there's also a subtle difference between the pulse and accents of Afropop as opposed to Western pop that keeps the former sounding fresh and engaging.

Bottom line: Afropop at its best - diverse, wide-ranging, and just plain good listening.

How To Listen:

Accessible through most wireless music players

Website: The African Radio Station site has its own player

iTunes: In the iTunes Radio menu, the station's listed in the International streams folder as African Music Radio