When we think of “legends” in the music space, we’re usually thinking of artists that have made it large in the West and are legitimised by their success on the Billboard charts. But what of those in other areas that have set in motion a new wave of music in their country and inspired generations of musicians to speak their mind. Shaped by the realities of their everyday lives, these new age legends around the world share a truly global sound that goes beyond borders.
Osbourne Ruddock was a Jamaican sound engineer who greatly influenced the development of the dub sound in the 1960s and 1970s. Often cited as the person who conceptualised the “remix”, it’s not surprising that working with knobs and circuitry would be second nature to him with the dub soundsystem being one of his earliest creations.
Rolling Stone describes him as “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa and for good reason. At the age of 18 while being a resident musician at Kasse’s Miami Club in Dakar, N’Dour helped develop a style of popular Senegalese music known by all Senegambians as mbalax, a genre that has sacred origins in the Serer music tradition.
David Grace (Maori/New Zealand)
Grace started as a busker on the streets of Australia at the age of 16 and after returning home a couple years later, started homegrown reggae band ‘Chaos’. Significant for the staunch stance on Māori indigenous rights, equality, world issues brought forward through his powerful lyrics with the reggae serving as the sound of revolution, David continues to represent the Māori community globally.
Sheikh Imam (Egypt)
An Egyptian composer, singer, and Oud proficient, Sheikh Imam alongside poet Ahmed Fouad Negm wrote songs in favour of the poor and the working classes during a time when tensions were high due to the Six-Day/Third Arab-Israeli War. Their revolutionary songs criticising the government after the war led them to imprisonment and detention several times but helped unite a people and brought their struggles to a global audience as they took their music to concert halls across the world.
Juluka, i.e, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu (South Africa)
A South African music band formed in 1969 by Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu at the height of Apartheid, challenged the notions of a country divided on the basis of colour by being the first multi-racial band of their time. Amplifying the thoughts of pain felt through the streets, Juluka’s music was performed in Zulu and English to bridge the gap and divide between South Africans at home.
Prophets of da City (South Africa)
A hip-hop crew from South Africa with an ambiguous and often fluctuating line-up, POC were the first to record Cape Town’s slang in their music. ‘Dala Flat’ meaning “do it thoroughly” was a song that incorporated their local Akrikaans dialect but merged it with a global sound and socially conscious lyrics.
Charly García (Argentina)
Widely regarded as one of the most influential rock artists in Latin America and the “Founding Father of Argentine Rock (Rock Argentino)”, García’s importance to world music cannot be understated. Soon after the Falklands War, reflecting on the sights of a militarised Argentina that marginalised its artists, he began his career as a solo artist. Charly is the musical expression of modern Argentina, in all its complexities, and the father of a genre, with its own unique identity.
Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (Brazil, started the Tropciália movement)
Tropciália was a Brazilian artistic movement that arose in the late 1960s, started by Veloso and Gil that not only analysed and disrupted culture but also served as a means of political expression. Borrowing British and American pop sensibilities while melding them with traditional Brazilian rhythms and styles led to a whole new style of music, reflective of Brazil’s military dictatorship and its contrasting left-wing ideologies that existed simultaneously.
S.Sivadas “Kovan” (India)
Better known as Kovan, Sivadas is a folk singer from Tamil Nadu known for composing songs and music surrounding concerns and issues of the Dalit community in India. Charged with sedition by the government for his criticisms through songs, Kovan’s voice has helped pave the way for artists from marginalised communities around the country to speak up for themselves and channel their experiences, unafraid, through their art.
Words by: Abheet Anand