The central African nation of Gabon is considered one of the more stable economies and governments of the continent — where even its First Families get involved with the arts and mercantilism. Here are five artists from Gabon you should know, covering spine-tingling R&B to classic emphatic fanfare.
A former First Lady with a calming androgynous voice, Dabany has stretched her creative career well into her 70s. She started out as a dancer and wed Albert-Bernard Bongo at age 15. They divorced in 1986, and so she turned to music to allay her inner fire. Her charisma and showmanship led to opening slots on tours with James Brown and others. Though her output slowed in the 2010s, she still contributes to women’s and children’s charities.
With self-assured rhymes and hooky synths, Parisian implant Malakay deserves major praise. A recent, addictive single of his name-checks running legend Usain Bolt over a thunderous flow and hypnotic drops. Malakay has honed his chops since 2003, when he was a member of Franceville’s Point Kardinal collective, according to his Facebook page. His longstanding agility took him to Europe and to an even broader hip-hop-loving audience. His Matière première EP is out now on ALM Productions.
The soothing, sweet, multilingual folk songs of Queen Koumb have earned her numerous Afro Vision awards. Her voice lands somewhere between Christina Aguilera’s and Gwen Stefani’s, with a worldly and grounded air. Combining reggae, indigenous percussion and a gentle sway, the artist has a serene allure. Thank you to Music in Africa for the recommendation!
Considered the preeminent zouk (fast-paced Afro-Caribbean dance genre) musician in Gabon, Oliver N’Goma ruled the late ’80s and early ’90s with bouncy, carefree tracks. “Bane” remains one of the best-selling African records on the continent, with its sing-along chorus and bright brass. A book was written in N’Goma’s honor before he died in 2010 from renal failure.
Weaned on American pop stars such as Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, Yo Trane brings back 1990s R&B romance in a big way. He has the melisma and temperament to melt hearts, and the foresight in blending old-school instrumentals with modern ambience. Tunes such as “Late Night Drive” are timeless in their imagery and warmth, and we can’t wait to hear what else this young up-and-comer has planned. Thanks to Artist Sounds for the suggestion.
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