Well, the case could be made that this was already a trend of 2007 and 2008 with Indie rockers Vampire Weekend's commercial breakthrough and a site like awesometapesfromafrica gaining popularity. This year saw the rise of The Very Best, 2 DJ/producers who teamed up with a Malawi-born singer. And Fool's Gold. And folk singer Karl Blau's new album is supposed to have a lot of african elements in it, but I am not hearing any ... you might want to check it out yourself.
Here's a tune from The Very Best:
The Very Best's music is nothing groundbreaking, but it serves as a nice backdrop to Esau Mwamwaya's beautifully orchestrated vocals. This guy would sound great with ANY backing music. Guest appearances by M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend's singer (who both manage to pretty much ruin those songs) are telling for the discursive context that this music is now placed in. One is left to wonder when Diplo will pick up on the hype and put the final nail into the coffin.
Anyway, I wanted to get to something completely different. One artist that is mentioned in every review as inventor of that kind of Western/African crossover in a big World Music melting pot is Paul Simon. However, his 1986 album "Graceland" was predated a few years by an even bigger collage of styles and sounds: Malcolm McLaren's 1983 "Duck Rock". McLaren could be perceived as a Diplo of the 80s, scouting trends and watering them down for the general public. During a visit in New York he met Afrika Bambaataa and became fascinated by the nascent hip hop culture. He teamed up with New York radio DJs The World's Famous Supreme Team and Trevor Horn/Anne Dudley of Art of Noise fame to produce an electro hip hop album. At times the outcome is just plain awkward ("Double Dutch" which amounts to something like Soulja Boy Tell'em avant la lettre, or "Merengue" which is a failed attempt to throw some latin flavor in the mix), but other times McLaren's annoying persona stays in the background and Horn/Dudley and The Supreme Team rock the show.
- an earlier post about that album