Has African football ever been as good as it is this year? I don't think so. In the past, individual teams made specatacular strides, notably Cameroon, cruelly beaten by England back in the 1980s. But too often, backstage bickering and disagreements with managers have led to teams underperforming. This year, things could be different and the World Cup in South Africa later in the summer will feature several outstanding teams, notably from Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria.
In the meantime, all three of those teams and thirteen more will battle it out for the next couple of weeks in the Africa Nations Cup, staged in Angola, and this week's programme picks out five of the leading teams, all of whom will also be involved in South Africa. Forgive me if, by the time we reach the semi finals, some of these teams have already been bitten the dust - it's notoriously hard to pick the winners in these eliminating competitions.
Angola is not yet considered an elite football team, but it would seem impolite to ignore the hosts, and in any case we must make room for Bonga, himself a former oustanding athlete (as a track runner, not a footballer) and still an great musical performer. We hope in the near future to bring you a programme drawn from Bonga's session for Radio 3 last year, but in the meantime offer his duet with Lura from Cape Verde, both of them wonderful vocalists.
The four football teams of North Africa - Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Egypt - regularly outperform the more spectacular teams of sub-Saharan Africa, but I have found room for only one of them here, choosing to play again the rousing song 'Hiya Ansadou' from the new album by Algerian singer Khaled.
Khaled (Algeria) photo Afropop
Ivory Coast has threatened to be the champion team of Africa several times over the past few years, but has yet to fulfil the promise of containing so many stars. Surely Didier Drogba and les Freres Toure can deliver the goods this time? In any case, Tiken Jah Fakoly rules the roost as one of the Africa's most popular singers, and he achieves an effective melange of reggae and traditional music in 'Alou Maye' (featuring Saramba Kouyate).
Tiken Jah Fakoly (Ivory Coast)
Having chosen contemporary music for most of the week's selections, I couldn't resist going backwards for a couple, relishing the chance to bring you 'Big Blow' by Cameroon's Manu Dibango, whose career was launched back around 1970 when he was commissioned to write a theme tune for Cameroon's team in the year's compeition. A casually-recorded B-side titled 'Soul Makossa' got things rolling not only for Manu but for African music in general, this being some years before Fela Kuti began to have an international impact.
Manu Dibango (Cameroon)
There is some real logic in linking football and music, as there are many African artists who tour the continent playing football stadiums and attracting passionate crowds. One of the biggest of this new generation is the Nigeria hip hop singer 9ice (pronounced simply as 'Nice') whose song 'Photocopy' warns his rivals it's not good enough to make photo copies of American R&B, you have to do your own thing.
We go back in time to finish, slipping in and out of 'ye wo adze a oye' by the Sweet Talks of Ghana, whose vocalist A.B.Crenstil is still revered by all. I discovered this album Hollywood HiLife Party long after the event of its original recording (in 1978, I think) and was entranced by the long percussion break, which we have sought to highlight here.
Glad to hear Khaled's mesmerising 'Hiya Ansadou' again and seeing his photo; and being wowed by Manu Dibango - does he have that amazing deep bass voice too? While listening to your terrific array of uplifting music linked with football and Africa, I couldn't help but think of the disappointment and shock to Emmanuel Adebayor and his team after that gun attack . Harsh turn of fate. Liz
Listening to this programme and its great music inspired me, a non follower of Football, to take note of what's happening in Africa. I recommend listening to BBC's The Friday Documentary' - Africa Kicks - Part four Especially touching is the story of Stanley "Screamer" Tshabalala; and also the story of how football gave Soul to the inmates of Robben Island.
I quote the introduction to the programme: ‘In the last part of our story of African Football, Farayi Mungazi looks ahead to South Africa's hosting of the 2010 World Cup. He looks at the impact that apartheid had on the development of football in South Africa and asks if football - traditionally the sport of the black masses - can unite the nation.' Broadcast on: BBC World Service, http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/radio/bbc_world_service I heard it on Fr 30Jan I think, but listened again tonight on DOCUMENTARY ARCHIVES SEE ON WEBPAGE JUST 4 ITEMS BELOW a Gillett show
''Stanley "Screamer" Tshabalala was a master of improvisation''. And wanting to copy the world players with huge thighs, but with no gymn facilities available, persuaded his team mates [‘Orlando Pirates’ of Soweto township] to train by running up the five floors of stairs in the huge Baragwanath hospital in Johannesburg; to the confusion of the nurses.
When after those awful Apartheid years of being denied the chance to play on the world stage, the South African teams were again accepted by FIFA, in 1992 he became the national coach. They won their first game [against Cameroon.]
As a young player on the streets with 50 other youngsters using one ball, they learned not to lose possession while avoiding parents carrying shopping, and the elderly. ‘Ironically this very lack of space would shape the best of the SA game – holding the ball close, fantastic dribbling great artistry.’
I see there is also a book by Ian Hawkey [Sun Times football writer] called FEET OF THE CHAMELEON What a title ....Have you seen the foot of a chameleon?
I wasn’t sure where to post this, but the link is ‘Africa’.
While escaping horrors of Silent Witness tonight, I came across on the Forum somewhere, Charlie’s recommendation of Momo Wandel Soumah’s piece, TOTO. Exciting - full of surprises! – the whole album is so varied – then suddenly that voice! [A bit mad listening to 9 sec clips, when each track is approx 9 minutes.]
Then I found Banning Eyre’s review of Wandel Soumah’s life, with details of those traditional Guinean folk instruments he fused so inventively with his sax improvisations. Beautiful names – kora, balafon, jembe, bolon, tam tam, gingou, doun-doun.. To think that his most creative years were as an older man ...inspiring!
Did you get to hear him in London 2003? [I wonder if Orchestra Baobab were influenced by his Circus Baobab connection?]