In Pursuit of African Music CDs & Vinyl

Posted July 26th, 2012 at 5:02 pm (UTC+0)
15 comments

The music business is really different today than a decade ago. CDs and cassettes and vinyl discs are all but relics of the past. Downloads from iTunes, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, reverbnation.com, and a host of other music sites are the natural way that American youth and young adults acquire their music. Most statistics on illegal downloading average out to about 95% percent since at least 2008. Subsequently, online music streaming services started popping up, such as spotify.com, that offer subscribers a menu of music from a range of major and independent record labels at a nominal monthly fee (about $10 dollars in the US).  Spotify was a Swedish start-up company in 2008, and by 2010 had 2.5 million paying subscribers. As of May 2012, there are more than 20 million monthly users on the Spotify platform, with between 15 – 17 million tracks and 500 – 700 million playlists to choose from.

Something about downloading CDs, singles, and streaming music from the Internet, though, doesn’t work well for radio shows (and DJs) so I went on a hunt for still-standing record stores that carry African music. I followed a path to Sterns Music–located, as I remembered–in central London, which used to be the #1 retailer for African music in the world.  The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line.  I’d also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music, probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest.  Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa.

Fortuitously, I had already made arrangements to attend a friend’s wedding in San Diego, California when I learned about Amoeba Music, so I quickly changed my plans to include a short trip to Los Angeles.  I just returned yesterday, and wanted to report my findings with a live video of my travels to the place, and a brief summary of what I discovered. You will hear and see more of the music I acquired there in due time, but for now let me share my journey in search of African music treasures.

Once I entered the store, I had to put my camera away and concentrate on the task at hand of checking out the African music. Most of the store is dedicated to rock . . .

But i found my way to African music under the “World Music EUROPE” category.

 

 

I met the lovely and informed Viola there, and she escorted me to the African section, popping in on me from time to time to suggest this or that.  Several of the major stars in African music who are known to Americans were featured with a short biography hand-written on index cards.

I found a wonderful selection of old and new recordings on vinyl and CD and cannot wait to share them with you. Stay tuned and stay well.

Heather Maxwell
Dr. Heather Maxwell produces and hosts the award winning radio program "Music Time in Africa" and is the African Music Editor for the Voice of America. Heather is an ethnomusicologist with a Ph.D. from Indiana University specializing in African Music. She is also an accomplished jazz and Afrojazz/Afrosoul vocalist and has been working, researching, and performing in Africa and the U.S. since 1987.

15 Responses to “In Pursuit of African Music CDs & Vinyl”

  1. Hans Husman says:

    I had great use of the talking drum as a more creative side of creating a language model and intelligence system, and found swahili quite special learning a bit of (feels a bit different and easier compared to other languages).

    You wouldn’t for me interested in african culture perhaps make a blog posts with resources of thesaurus and ontology type. Africa is high in diversity and hence quite complex in the area of concepts and relations of such.

    One I found is the the African Studies Thesaurus at Ascleiden. It is very small for any continent. Library catalog system give quite much but less in the exact areas much more reflecting broad views of litterature (for obvious reasons). Wikipedias category system isn’t the area of culture much compared to the thesaurus.

    Might be a great project for you to do at Voice of America. Communication over a world of many culture is your expertise area after all. I am sure many readers would love such support freely avaible especially in Africa. Perhaps even making a bit for increasing the understanding between people.

    Good luck with the blog,

  2. [...] had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later … Read more on Voice of America (blog) This entry was posted in Amoeba Music and tagged Cool, district, Grounds&#39, Happy, hours, [...]

  3. Ken says:

    There are a few African owned businesses in the MD/DC area where you can find original CDs. It’s sad, I miss the days when I used to browse the music collections at various record stores. Haven’t been to jandr records in NY in a few years, but they had a beautiful “world music” section.

    • Heather Maxwell Heather Maxwell says:

      Dear Ken,
      Thanks for your comment. I love the small original music shops too but, like you, miss the good old days of browsing in the mega stores.

  4. Sonya says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun to browse in Amoeba Music, and it’s nice that they have a relatively robust collection of African artists and their music. Good luck with your future travels and explorations – you’ll likely find music treasures in all sorts of interesting places…

  5. Felipe Rizo says:

    like your style – keep at it, its good work!

  6. Lena says:

    hmm, this looks interesting

  7. […] I followed a path to Sterns Music located, as I rememberedin central London, which used to be the #1 retailer for African music in the world. The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line. Id also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music ,probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa. For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

  8. […] After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music ,probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa. Fortuitously, I had already made arrangements to attend a friends wedding in San Diego, California when I learned about Amoeba Music, so I quickly changed my plans to include a short trip to Los Angeles. I just returned yesterday, and wanted to report my findings with a live video of my travels to the place, and a brief summary of what I discovered. You will hear and see more of the music I acquired there in due time, but for now let me share my journey in search of African music treasures. For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

  9. […] You will hear and see more of the music I acquired there in due time, but for now let me share my journey in search of African music treasures. Once I entered the store, I had to put my camera away and concentrate on the task at hand of checking out the African music. Most of the store is dedicated to rock . . . For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

  10. […] The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line. Id also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music ,probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa. Fortuitously, I had already made arrangements to attend a friends wedding in San Diego, California when I learned about Amoeba Music, so I quickly changed my plans to include a short trip to Los Angeles. I just returned yesterday, and wanted to report my findings with a live video of my travels to the place, and a brief summary of what I discovered. For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

  11. […] The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line. Id also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music ,probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. Sterns suggested a trip to South Africa, as the formidable Gallo Record Company still owns over 75% of recordings ever made in South Africa. Fortuitously, I had already made arrangements to attend a friends wedding in San Diego, California when I learned about Amoeba Music, so I quickly changed my plans to include a short trip to Los Angeles. I just returned yesterday, and wanted to report my findings with a live video of my travels to the place, and a brief summary of what I discovered. You will hear and see more of the music I acquired there in due time, but for now let me share my journey in search of African music treasures. Once I entered the store, I had to put my camera away and concentrate on the task at hand of checking out the African music. For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

  12. […] Something about downloading CDs, singles, and streaming music from the Internet, though, doesnt work well for radio shows (and DJs) so I went on a hunt for still-standing record stores that carry African music. I followed a path to Sterns Music located, as I rememberedin central London, which used to be the #1 retailer for African music in the world. The English gentleman there explained that, unfortunately, they now only sell on-line. Id also caught wind of a New Jersey branch of Sterns here in the US, and reached out to them, only to the same response. After a few more calls and conversations, I found my destination. First I would head to Los Angeles, California to Amoeba Music ,probably the only mega-music store remaining in the US, and browse their African music section to see if they had anything of interest. Second, I would make plans to travel to Africa later in 2012 or early 2013 for recordings of local contemporary music. For more information, visit http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2012/07/26/in-pursuit-of-african-music-cds-vinyl/ […]

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Heather Maxwell produces and hosts the award-winning radio program “Music Time in Africa” and is the Africa Music Director for the Voice of America. Heather is an ethnomusicologist with Doctorate and Master’s degrees from Indiana University specializing in African Music. She is also an accomplished jazz and Afrojazz/Afrosoul vocalist and has been working, researching, and performing in Africa and the U.S. since 1987.

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