If language is the most universal way of connecting as you travel, then music runs a very close second. Musicians would say there’s no question it comes first. Drumming, humming, foot-tapping and dancing to the sounds that blast out of radios and massive old plastic music players all across the continent are sure-fire ways of melting cultural boundaries. Africa still relies on CDs – and even cassette tapes – and you can buy them absolutely everywhere, usually for not much more than the cost of a couple of iTunes tracks.
Live music usually takes a bit more searching out. At the weekend (often Wednesday to Sunday as far as clubs are concerned) there’s usually something happening in a dozen or more venues in most capital cities and at least one or two places in every sizeable town. The slightly tricky part – for most travellers used to the routine of getting up early enough to grab transport or have some cool hours – is staying awake until the band come on, let alone until they finally leave the stage. Think in terms of 11pm warm-ups and midnight starts.
If you’re really into music, then you won’t need reminding that learning music – especially drumming and some traditional instruments like the kora in West Africa – and going to festivals (see Directory) can be the highlights of your trip.
This page last edited 15 June 2011 © Richard Trillo and Emma Gregg