All posts by Matthew Lavoie

Kora Kings of the N’Gabu

Posted August 19th, 2008 at 9:29 pm (UTC-4)

Over the last 30 years, especially since the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots in 1976, the West African Griot has become one of Africa’s most ubiquitous, and clichéd, symbols; in Europe and the United States the term has become shorthand for almost all forms of African and Diaspora cultural expression. (An example that I find […]

Posted in Senegambia

Zambian Radio Reels

Posted July 29th, 2008 at 10:15 pm (UTC-4)

One of the most pressing challenges for Africa’s newly independent nations of the 1960s was to create a sense of ‘national’ identity, to bind their citizens to a national polity whose authority took precedence over regional or ethnic affiliations and political systems. These young nations, had to find ways to unite, politically and socially, ethnically […]

Posted in Zambia

The Music of Mauritania, Part Two.

Posted June 25th, 2008 at 12:06 am (UTC-4)

Over the last five decades the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has gone through profound climatic and demographic changes. In 1960, when Mauritania won her independence from France, over 60% of all Mauritanians were nomads, and the capital city of Nouakchott was home to only 500 persons. (The first president of Mauritania, Moktar ould Daddah, initially […]

The Light & Sound of Mogadishu

Posted May 20th, 2008 at 10:05 pm (UTC-4)

Blue and White, the colors of the Somali flag, Blue and White, the colors of Mogadishu. This city, that over the last seventeen years has become a symbol of anarchy and suffering, was once one of East Africa’s most appealing capitals. Friends and colleagues who lived in Mogadishu in the early 1970s remember a city […]

Posted in Somalia

Back in Business!

Posted May 12th, 2008 at 3:56 pm (UTC-4)

Well, almost. I have just returned from a month out of the office. I am currently finishing up the research for several forthcoming posts. In the days to come you should be able to enjoy some rare 45s from Somalia, some great tapes from Radio Mali, and hopefully, a second installment of Mauritanian music-I was […]

Posted in Sierra Leone

Bakongo roots from the D. R. Congo

Posted April 8th, 2008 at 11:37 pm (UTC-4)

I will never forget the first time I heard the group ‘Konono # 1’ from Kinshasa. It was back in the fall of 1995, when I working in a record store in Cambridge, MA. One afternoon a friend-and fellow music enthusiast- came in to browse through whatever new releases had arrived that day, and as […]

The Heartbeats of Sierra Leone

Posted March 31st, 2008 at 11:45 pm (UTC-4)

Ever since our weekly radio program ‘Music Time in Africa’ first hit the airwaves, back in 1965, Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats of Sierra Leone have been part of the show: for the last 43 years our opening and closing theme has been a guitar loop taken from the Hearbeats song ‘Zamsi’. Over the course […]

Posted in Sierra Leone

Ethiopia’s revolutionary sixties

Posted March 18th, 2008 at 3:23 pm (UTC-4)

Over the last ten years, thanks largely to the herculean efforts of French researcher Francis Falceto (he’s the man behind the Ethiopiques CD series released by Buda Musique: each of the twenty-three volumes so far released are essential listening), curious music lovers have discovered the glories of 1970s ‘Ethiopian Groove’, a potent brew of traditional […]

Posted in Ethiopia

Lost Liberian 45s from the 1960s

Posted March 4th, 2008 at 11:28 pm (UTC-4)

The 1960s were a time of optimism, relative prosperity, and rapid growth in Monrovia, the ocean-side capital of Liberia. For almost one hundred and fifty years the city had been the economic, political, and social hub of the ‘Americo-Liberian’ community, who had governed the country since July 26, 1847, when the independence of the Republic […]

Posted in Liberia

Musical Sunshine from Malawi

Posted February 26th, 2008 at 1:33 am (UTC-4)

Nestled between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, Malawi has earned it’s nickname as ‘the warm heart of Africa’. And ‘warm’ is precisely the adjective I would use to describe Malawian music. There is a sunny optimism in much of the Malawian music I’ve heard, and after a grim weekend of cold, rain, and snow, here in […]

Posted in Malawi



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 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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