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Aired July 14, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Femi Oke. This is INSIDE AFRICA. And on today's program, we are going to have some serious fun. We are going to trace the influences of African music around the world.
And we start with an idea that began in Atlanta known as Drum Cafe, African drumming is an integral part of African life. And now several African drummers have got together to bring that into corporate America as they do team-building and also bonding seminars all over the country.

And here today we have the members of the U.S. Food Services getting into the groove, getting their beat on and de-stressing. But first we head to Paris with our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are an overnight success that was 10 years in the making. The four guys from the Ivory Coast who call themselves Magic System. They make it look so easy. But the gold and platinum albums they now seem to produce effortlessly mask their years of struggle to escape the slums of Abidjan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We come from a very poor neighborhood, not a neighborhood where people eat three meals a day. We have this thing called sudden. You eat at 4:00 p.m. and you wait the next day to eat again. And when you come out from such a neighborhood, there are things you want to tell. And since in Africa we take everything with humor, we tell it satirically to make people laugh.

BITTERMANN: They learned to laugh at adversity themselves, and infused their firsthand knowledge of Africa's problems with their own brand of infectious humor, and originated in the Ivory Coast a new musical style called "Zouglou."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It started at the campuses. Things were not good in the country. So little student groups created a dance we called "Zouglou." It is a dance where we express facts through gestures. And they raise their hands to ask the lord for help. And when they put their hand on their stomach, it says they don't have to eat. Each gesture explains something. And then it became a social music. A music people would use to explain their problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are talking about daily life. If you have a problem with -- you know, you don't have enough money to make it, you are a student but you can't afford to pay for your studies. About abortion, about drugs, about, you know, violence. Because they lived it, not themselves, but a lot of people around them.

BITTERMANN: They no longer have to worry where their next meal is coming from. Now they are megastars, because the breakthrough for magic system came with a continental leap onto the record charts in Europe. Friends say, though, their success has not gone to their heads.

With each video clip now a major production and dozens of dancers, technicians, followers and a fans involved with each new track, it might appear Magic System has left their past behind. But the group, which has been together since childhood, says they can only make music if they stay in touch with their roots.

A French reporter who made a documentary about Magic System says their popularity depends on not forgetting where they came from and how far they have gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Magic System is a phenomenon. In France it has been 15 years since we have seen that, since we have seen an African band exploding like that. I hope they never lose themselves, that they stay faithful to Zouglou, that they stay faithful to the Ivory Coast. That is what we love them for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Magic System, it is really hard to see, four African guys, four average African guys. You can meet them in Johannesburg, you can meet them in Kinshasa, in Brazzaville, in Abidjan. You have thousands of Magic System in -- you know, in Africa. But you only have one Magic System who made it because they are probably the one who stick to their, you know, musical conviction.

BITTERMANN: Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


OKE: You don't have to look hard to find African grooves all over the world music charts. But much the influence of African music came via way of the slave trade. Cuba was a major destination for slaves. And by the mid 19th Century, almost a third of all the people in Cuba were actually Africans. Today their musical legacy can still be heard.

Morgan Neill has more.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this little alley in Havana, it is easy to forget just where you are. Music is African, the lyrics in Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and elsewhere in West Africa.

Dancer interprets Oshun orisha, or deity of love, sensuality, and the river. Haleasan Conso (ph) of Cuba's Yoruba Association says the music evolved along with religious beliefs when Africa slaves were brought to the Island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The religion that we practice here is totally different that they have in Nigeria now. It is the same roots, but it is a little bit different.

NEILL (on camera): Tell me about some of the differences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For instance. Here in Cuba, we mix African religion with Catholicism. That is the syncretism.

NEILL (voice-over): And that mixture is evident in the music. But with a twist, it is as Cuba as cigars and the classic cars on Havana's streets. But the influence of Africa on Cuba's music isn't restricted to one's street. It is everywhere. And rumba, conga, Son; even Los Van Van, who may be Cuba's most famous salsa group, sing the occasional song in Yoruba.

(on camera): While the influence African music is widespread, it is particularly strong in two areas, in Guanabacoa, some 15 kilometers in that direction, and just below me here in Regla.

(voice-over): Regla is perhaps best-known as home to the Virgin of Regla, a black Virgin Mary originally worshipped by slaves from West Africa as a surrogate for the Yoruba goddess Yemaya. Today you can still run across what is called a Toque de Santo, a ceremony intended to communicate with the gods.

Cuban music embraces an intoxicating mix of influences, from Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. But the sounds and rhythms of Africa are never far from the surface.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Havana.


OKE: When we come back, we head to Uganda and Mali as we continue our look at the global influences of African music. Stay with us, from the Drum Cafe in Atlanta.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here is a look at some of African music's top female icons.

Miriam Makeba has been a voice of social justice for decades, since her fight against the Apartheid regime in her native South Africa, she has won a Grammy and a worldwide acclaim.

From the islands of Cape Verde comes the "Barefoot Diva," Cesaria Evora's lyrics about her country's history of slave trade and isolation has brought her international fame.

Four-time Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo is known as one of Africa's most diverse singers. Her musical influences include Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, and Latin styles.

As an activist, Yvonne Chaka Chaka has become a powerful voice for millions of underprivileged Africans. Her musical recognition came after decades of success, showcasing urban South African music alongside pop star, Brenda Fassie. Their style became known as "bubblegum."




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Kenya has launched a PR campaign for its flowers in the U.K. after supermarkets there launched a campaign to stop people from buying flowers flown in from Africa due to air pollution. Kenya's "grown under the sun" campaign says its flowers are producer naturally while European growers expend energy artificially lighting their flowers.

Uganda has temporarily closed all coffee factories in one of its districts because they were processing wet coffee beans. The government said coffee processes were not giving farmers ample time to dry the beans, thereby risking the quality and image of Uganda's coffee.


OKE: Hello. You are watching INSIDE AFRICA. I am with the drummers of Drum Cafe. It is an amazing group which takes drumming and drumming seminars all around corporate America. The idea is to stop them from being stressed.

I'm going to take you now from our little drum private session to Uganda where one musician is doing his best to take East African music away from the African continent and spread it around the world.

Nick Valencia has that story.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A self-described "child of East Africa," Jose Chameleone is a musical sensation. But he is also so much more.

JOSE CHAMELEONE, MUSICIAN: Get up the industry, get outside the country.

VALENCIA: Twice voted "African Artist of the Year," Chameleone started his music career in Uganda during the late 1990s.

CHAMELEONE: Initially, when I started as an artist, I had a dream to conquer a particular region, which was East and Central Africa.

VALENCIA: And as you can see, his music attracts a diverse following.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he is one of the best musicians here in Uganda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not just (INAUDIBLE), he is a human being.

VALENCIA: Chameleone's lyrics, which he sings in an unmistakable raspy voice, are about relationships, politics, and change. Eight percent of Chameleon's music is in Swahili.

CHAMELEONE: One of the dreams as an artist when I started singing, I thought to myself when I lived in Kenya that I should revive Swahili to Uganda as a language that can be perceived joyfully.

VALENCIA: Now that the 28-year-old has helped bring African music into the international spotlight, he stays community-oriented.

CHAMELEONE: Me being in America, me being in England, or me being in Germany, me being in the rest of the world is my community being there, because when I come back, I try to tell to them what I see in other communities and what I -- how being make it there outside of the world.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN,


OKE: From the east, we head west to Mali where on musician is taking on the world and malaria one note at a time. Sarah Cardin (ph) reports.


SARAH CARDIN (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The notes from his guitar float through the air in Bamako, Mali. His father is Ali Farka Toure, a two-time Grammy winner and one of the most well-known musicians out of Africa.

Now 26-year-old Vieux Farka Toure is following in his father's footsteps using a mixture of African and Western sounds to appeal to listeners across the globe. He has come a long way.

Growing up, Ali forbade him to play music. He pushed his son to become a soldier instead. Young Vieux practiced in hiding in the closet.

VIEUX FARKA TOURE, MUSICIAN: My father didn't want me to. I have had problems with him because he didn't want me to play any instrument. He wanted me to enlist in the military. He believed that music is a very difficult way to make a living.

CARDIN: Vieux's raw talent soon had Ali singing a very different tune. As bone cancer destroyed his body, Ali found the strength to acknowledge his son's legacy. Ali welcome Vieux into the world of music. In a final emotional recording session, Ali contributed two songs of his own for inclusion on his son's debut album.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was carried in and sat down. And they put a guitar in his lap. And he just started to bleed through his guitar. And Vieux, of course, just joined him, and they played this very slow and melancholic tune that was really, really sad and I was welling up with tears and it was really, just one of these incredible moments. And that moment has stuck with me and I think about it virtually every day.

CARDIN: Ali died shortly after. No longer hiding, Vieux plucks his guitar into an amp, giving impromptu concerts for his neighbors. It is a warm-up for a much bigger stage, his next world tour.

He has already released the music video for his first single "Ana," dedicated to his sister. The video tries to capture the relationship between Vieux's music and his family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is about him moving into the world of music, asking for the blessing of his family to kind of go out and pursue what he is doing. And it really celebrates his culture and his family ties.

CARDIN: The album is a mix of bluesy jazz. Along with Ali Farka Toure, the album also features Grammy winner Toumani Diabate. To honor his father and his country, Vieux and his production company, Modiba, decided to use the album as a vehicle to bring attention to the malaria crisis in Mali.

Ten percent of the proceeds from the album will go towards providing mosquito nets in Niafunke, the home region of the Farka Toure family in northern Mali. The goal is simple, to use the music of a family to give back to Mali.

Sarah Cardin, CNN.


OKE: There is much more to come on INSIDE AFRICA. Just ahead, the man who Nelson Mandela listened to while he was in prison. We catch with the life and musical career of Jonathan Butler. See you soon.


OKE (voice-over): When it comes to West Africa's best male voices, some artists have clearly taken the lead over the years. Mory Kante is a guitarist, singer, and balafon player following the popular West African griot tradition. His song, "Yeke Yeke" is one of Africa's best ever selling hits. And he is often credited with introducing the traditional instrument, the kora, to the world.

Next up is Salif Keita, also known as "The Golden Voice of Africa." His music blends together the traditional griot of his native country of Mali with other West African influences. And his unique sound has reached people across continents and cultures.

Youssou N'Dour has been dubbed by The New York Times "one of the world's greatest artists and West Africa's cultural ambassador to the world." The Senegal native is regarded as great defender of African causes. And his lyrics have brought hope to millions of Africa's underprivileged.

Like Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal is also a Senegal native and is seen as one of Africa's best performers. He sings mainly in Pulaar language to promote the cultural traditions of his Fulani people. But using his native tongue hasn't stopped Baaba Maal from turning into an African superstar.




OKE (voice-over): Two times Grammy award winner Ladysmith Black Mambazo were the voices of freedom fighters and the oppressed. The South African singing group has led Africa's global musical influences since being discovered by musician Paul Simon more than 20 years ago.

Eneida Marta's music and lyrics are inspired by people in her native Guinea-Bissau. They celebrate the intensity of life, the traditions of solidarity, and the courage to live through hard times.

Kaysha is perhaps one of the most active artists around Africa and the West Indies. The successful music producer has won two Kora awards for "Best African Male Artist, and for "Best African Artist Living in the Diaspora."

Known as "Mr. Zouk Love," Philip Monteiro has reinvented zouk from its party mood to a love mood. The Senegal native is credited with creating several variants of zouk with love themes.


OKE: Good to see you again. You are watching INSIDE AFRICA with the drummers of Drum Cafe. Let me introduce the drummers to you.

We have on drums Kina (ph), Jo-Ann (ph). On percussion, Alain (ph). Ah, and wait for it, Ibrahima (ph) and Glenn (ph).

Going to take you to South Africa now to talk about a musician called Jonathan Butler. He grew up and was the very first black person to be played on white South African radio. We caught with him recently to talk about his music.


JONATHAN BUTLER, MUSICIAN: I'm from Cape Town and I grew up in Athlone, you know, in -- back in the day, back then there were shanties everywhere.

I fell into this pool of music, which I love. And I -- you know, I was the one that sort of became the breadwinner. I left home at 7 and got to see the world and experience just different kinds of things and dynamics as a kid.

There were times at home in Africa when we were starting to make original music, we wanted to have our own voice. And people at home didn't want to listen. They wanted to listen to top 40 American music.

Club owners would throw me out of the club because I didn't do songs by the Bee Gees, you know? And so to come to America and England and be accepted and be loved and adored and admired by my peers and wherever I go, it is like, wow, you know, this is really cool.


OKE: Thanks to Jonathan Butler for coming in and playing at the CNN studios. Now if you need any more information about African music, take a look at the Web site Time now to play out with the drummers of Drum Cafe. (INAUDIBLE)!