Filed under: Jamati Top 10, Music

Top 5 Most Recognized African Songs

It is now the end of the year and we are looking at the top 5 most recognized African songs that have ever come out. The obvious limitations to the list are somewhat obvious….some songs were never put on video, so while they were popular, they don’t make the list. The only criteria is that they should have been popular on more than one continent. Here we go.


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5. Almost anything by Koffi Olomide
Koffi Olomide had people waiting with bated breath for his shows. It could have been his ndombolo dancers that attracted them, but it was his ability to sing, and put on a great performance, that kept them coming back. Couldn't find his older stuff, but his new stuff is very popular around the world. This particular video is reminiscient of his older style. If you look hard enough you might spot a younger Fally Ipupa.

4. African Queen - 2Face Idibia African Queen has got to be the most downloaded song by an African artist on Myspace, Itunes, CD baby, and Calabash Music (to name a few). It celebrates African beauty and has a feel-good sound about it. Besides, he's right....we are all African Queens or know one we can celebrate!

3. Pata Pata - Miriam Makeba
Pata Pata is one of Miriam Makeba's most famous songs. It is also called the click song because she clicks in her vernacular as she sings the song. I don't think it will ever go out of style. There are many different video versions with her singing the song, but I like the original one. It still has the ability to make you want to sing.

2. Malaika - Fadhili Williams (later made famous by Miriam Makeba)
This song is surrounded by a lot of controversy due to copyright issues. Fadhili William Ndawida (known as Fadhili Williams), a Kenyan singer/songwriter, wrote this song in 1960 and recorded it with his band, the Jambo Boys. Unfortunately he did not copyright his song and so did not benefit from the royalties and resulting success that came about when Miriam Makeba recorded the song. At the time of his death he was still fighting for the copyright rights.

1. Yeke Yeke - Mory Kante
This has got to be THE most recognized song in the entire world! I don't think I have met anyone who has not heard it, from Turkey to France, Nigeria to South Africa, Tunisia to Kenya, this song is well-loved. There have been several remixes but, in my mind, the original is still the best!

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43 Responses to “Top 5 Most Recognized African Songs”

  • Top 5 most recognized songs from Africa - Mashada Forums says:

    December 10th, 2007 at 9:03 am

    [...] Do you agree with the list or have suggestions about others you think could have made the list? Jamati Online | Top 5 Most Recognized African Songs Just remember they must be songs that were popular around the world and sold out, or are still [...]

  • B says:

    December 13th, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    no,the list is good,but i think there are some songs should have made the list,like,Loi, eta mojor,you know what i mean…

  • Gidds says:

    January 7th, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Glad African Queen made the list. Pretty good song.

  • D says:

    February 8th, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    You left out the main man Fela Kuti, arguably the most popular African Musician of all time.

  • MJ says:

    February 20th, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    never heard of song 1 or 5!

  • Afria says:

    April 25th, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    What about Premiere Gaou by Magic System

  • ngum says:

    June 29th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    agree with D. fela kuti’s lady should have been somewhere on that list. i guess it’s a generation thing.

  • ngum says:

    June 29th, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    ‘umquomboti’ (sp?) by yvonne chaka chaka was another miss and brenda fassi’s ‘vulindela’ too

  • simo says:

    April 17th, 2009 at 1:10 am

    hey wat is that ayo mamama ahoooo ayo mama can you tell me what it is

  • M says:

    May 16th, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I don’t think this list fully represents the most popular to the general population, maybe just to you. I don’t know number 1! Songs like “Sweet Mother” or some of the ladysmith mambazo hits should have been included.

  • Patricia says:

    June 7th, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Manu Dibango- Soul Makossa

  • sophia says:

    July 16th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Premiere Gaou by Magic System!!! is the one that should be there i was surprised the amount of people that actualy new this song

  • missmimi says:

    November 7th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    there is no franco song!!!this list is not soo good. plus vulindela and umquomboti shud be there!

  • Andy says:

    June 22nd, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Great list.

    But what about Jambo Bwana?

  • African Music Guide says:

    July 8th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Have a look at another list: Top Ten African Popular Songs. Some above are included, but I think its a bit more african:

  • dan says:

    August 4th, 2010 at 3:11 am

    brenda fassi??? Tears :(

  • to Cameroon with says:

    August 8th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Hello all,

    I found your topic very interesting. But I was quite disappointed with your definition clause and your selection. Do you mean African Continent including Egypt and Maghreb ? Spanning over wich period, 50 years ?

    In this case, with the exception of pata pata, none of your title will meet the to 50, yes I say fifty, let alone…

    Ever heard about : Independance cha cha (Congo), Avava inouva (Algeria), Ya Rayah (Algeria) Soul makossa (Cameroun), high life (Benin), Lady (Nigeria), Inta Omri (Egypt) and so on ? These were hits on at least 3 Continents and scores of countries.

    Besides, u must propose a list of nominee, I might say at leat 20 songs…

  • to Cameroon with says:

    August 14th, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Of course, you cannot let out the lion sleeps tonight

  • F says:

    August 19th, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Man i was looking for the name “vulindela”… Thats how igot here!
    Thanks to all and More Kante Yeke Yeke should be on the top of the list cause its still heard by the young as well, cos of all the remixes!

  • Msemaji wa Kiswahili says:

    December 3rd, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Wow, Malaika is 2nd on your list??? Really?

    Malaika ni wimbo mzuri, lakini ninafikiri kwamba hufai orodha yako.

  • Eazi says:

    December 16th, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Lucky Dube

  • Ilona says:

    February 23rd, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Oh my goodness!! I’ve been looking for the song Premiere Gaou (Magic System) for years!!!! I didn’t remember the title or name of the group so I just couldn’t find it. Thank you so much for putting it on here!!

  • Tiago says:

    February 25th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I have been looking for a song for years aswel, its like african dance song. It goes a lil something like this: anaianaiane anaianaiane anaianaiane anaianaiane.. i think its from a dj..
    Apologies for sound a bit dum..
    Great list btw.. and yeah Magic system shoul definitly b there.

  • Tiago says:

    February 27th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Found it! Salif keita – Madan

  • Jovan says:

    March 28th, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Tiago I love you maaaaaan!!!!! I spent half hour almost lost my hope I ll find it!

  • ana says:

    June 24th, 2011 at 5:13 am

    What about Cabo Verde?!!! Tito Paris, C.Evora, Bana?!!!

  • bruv says:

    October 5th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    how is circle of life NOT on thing ever

  • Sami chris says:

    October 29th, 2011 at 8:34 am

    It feels good African queen is in list but i don’t know how comes vulindlela & gaou are missing in sure am also gonna add into the list,just a little time.

  • Africansounds says:

    December 21st, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I would say the most popular songs are:
    1) Sweet mother- Nico Mbarga
    2) Malika- Fadhili Williams
    3)Pata Pata- Miriam Makeba
    4)lET ME LOVE YOU- Bunny Mack
    5)Yeke yeke- Mory Kante

  • Mpechi says:

    January 7th, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Songs like Le Bucheron Franklin Boukaka, Sweet Mother Nico Mbarga, Africa Mokili Mobimba Tabu Ley, Africa Salif Keita, should also have been included on your list and one song i forgot title of song by Mpongo Love

  • Eric says:

    January 31st, 2012 at 3:30 am

    New South African gospel music sensation, Eric Phiri available for downloads on

  • mukesh says:

    April 21st, 2012 at 11:43 am

    it’s nice song

  • tal says:

    June 26th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    who sang the Hit..mother Africa been looking for it on line for a long time, used to hear all the time in parties when i was a little boy

  • tal says:

    June 26th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    found it after speaking to my Father lol i thought the lyrics was mother africa


  • Nasuada says:

    July 7th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    all the songs among top 5 are great!!

    however, i was searching for this 1 song that i don’t know the artist or name of. no offense meant but it sounds something like “oooo kaya irooo maza” its a fast song with great drum beats. please help?

  • Idahoe says:

    October 2nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks so much for the orignal list and for all comments. I have now officially dowloaded every song mentioned :)
    And I would like to add Bracket, J Martins & P Square as three “important to remember” when it comes to african music. They may not be the most famous and the music is farely new, (and somewhat like rnb) but they are still real african beats that gives you that real good feelin.. Ilove! thanks again =OD

  • Idahoe says:

    October 2nd, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    and 9ice – Gongo Aso! =) check it! reminds me of beach party in Accra :)

  • lynda says:

    December 15th, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    this list is bulshit.Yeke Yeke?really? what about tajabone from ismael lo and of course Vulindlela from Brenda Fassie? what about that?what about didi of khaled?we are talking about songs which are known in the entire continent not in some regions of the continent.i’m okay with Pata Pata and Malaika and also african quenn but the rest no way

  • lynda therese says:

    December 16th, 2012 at 12:13 am

    i forgot Uqombothi by yvonne Chaka Chaka

  • bundi says:

    February 8th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    how about this song they play during sports? Africa ooo Africaoo my country land, africa africa africa africa eh. Can anyone remind me who sang the song

  • Santos says:

    September 22nd, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    See p square personally should be added now,because anybody dat know micheal jackson,know p.square it make them unique becausethey are niaja guys and anambra 4 dat mater,it u think say na lie call 08138455132 gat more prove.

  • Mdala wa Rue says:

    October 22nd, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Africa by Salif Keita is top of the pops and so is Adia by Oliver Ngoma.

  • moketsi says:

    July 26th, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Birima by Youssou


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