Travel Tempo

Let music take you back to a moment in travel.


South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London

Image: John Stillwell

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Music connects us with a culture when we travel. You can take a picture of a museum, bring back a souvenir, or recipes from your favorite destinations, but nothing evokes emotion like a piece of music. It might be the way it was performed or the experience you had while listening to it, but when you return to that piece, it will take you back to the people and the place purely by the way it makes you feel. In this new regular section, we'll explore the relationship between music and travel, and take you on a cultural journey through our curated playlists. In this issue, we look at the power of African music.

Hugh Masekela taken during his 70th birthday celebration by photographer and personal friend, Santosh Peters

The call of Africa

Africa’s music is ancient, rich and diverse. Songs are used for every important event in a person’s life, from birth to death. They are used for curing the sick, bringing rain and religious dance. Historically, the most frequent form of music was the use of ostinato - repeated short musical phrases to drums.

During the independence period of the 1960s, music evolved to reflect the vibrant political and cultural period, and there was also more freedom to the composition, seeing musicians blend traditional and foreign musical styles. Street musicians always love to say “music is my ammunition” and a prime example of that is Fela Kuti creating Afro-Beat in defiance of the Nigerian Government, or Hugh Masekela pleading for Mandela’s return home from prison.

Today, that plead for human rights continues with music like that of Afro Fiesta members Mermans Mosengo and Jason Tamba produced by Playing For Change, a movement created to inspire, connect and bring peace to the world through music. As well as using music as a 'voice', African musicians have also inspired many famed international performers such as Paul Simon, Sugarman, Louis Armstrong.

Here, we take you back to the ancient drum, a sound that is still prolific in music today. The drum is an important representation of a community and it's no coincidence it features heavily in groups like the Soweto Gospel Choir, formed to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of gospel music.


Under African Skies


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