Feast Of West Some hidden dance gems from old school West African music.

All genres of music are cousin to each other, some close and some distant. Wherever music has existed it has been observed to fulfil certain social purposes: communication, celebration and marking important days, in prayer rituals, and to bring a community together through dancing. The latter trait is nowhere more evident than at The Salsa Club where the 2022 dancing season has commenced with new and old members taking to the floor, eager to learn and practice their steps and patterns, and take part in the physically challenging but rewarding activity that is dancing.

The cousinship of music is why, for example, once a dancer picks up a particular rhythm they are able to transpose movements onto compositions from another seemingly far-flung genre. Traditional songs from Latin America are not the only aural delights to be found on The Salsa Club’s dance floor. Music from around the world is sampled for its ability to offer different dancing experiences, especially when the underlying compositions carry similar time signatures to traditional salsa, bachata, and cha cha rhythms.

West African music rose to global prominence in the 70s, 80s, and 90s with artists such as Fela Kuti, Salif Keita, Ismaël Lö, and Angelique Kidjo enjoying commercial and critical success with their recordings. Then known as “world music”, and grouped alongside any music recorded by a country’s native population, African music has since managed to garner the respect it deserves, with its particular genres—jazz, soul, hip-hop, rumba, Afrobeats, and many others—becoming recognised. Afrobeats, the continent’s most popular genre today (still heavily dominated by musicians from Ghana and Nigeria), is enjoying modern reinvention.

But there is much to love about the older generation of recordings which featured instruments used in West African music arrangement: wind instruments like flutes, slit gongs, rattles and double bells, various harps as well as harp-like instruments such as the Kora (seen above) and numerous types of xylophone—these instruments are what one typically associates with music from the continent’s Western arm and have given songs from that part of the world such a distinct signature.

Curiosity about music, and a willing nature to explore and experiment with dance rhythms, led to the curation of this playlist featuring some hidden dance gems from Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Cape Verde, Mali, and Senegal. With the likes of Magic System, Angelique Kidjo, Balla Et Ses Balladins, Salif Keita and Evoria Ceasaria, Amadou and Mariam, Habib Koite, Cheikh Lô, and Ismael Lö, this playlist shows that all genres of music belong to the same family, sometimes separated by one or two beats.

Premier Gauo—Magic System (Cote D’Ivoire)—Salsa

Agolo—Angelique Kidjo (Ghana)—Salsa

Paulette—Balla Et Ses Balladins (Guinea)—Bachata

Yamore—Salif Keita (Mali) & Cesária Évora (Cape Verde)—Salsa

Mbife—Salif Keita (Mali)—Salsa

Mon Amour, Ma Cherie—Amadou & Mariam (Mali)—Salsa

Wassiye—Habib Koite (Mali)—Bachata

Il N’Est Jamais Trop Tard—Cheikh Lô (Senegal)—Salsa

Dibi Dibi Rek—Ismaël Lö (Senegal)—Salsa