African music artists names
In Podor in Senegal, the place where I grew up, everyone is an artist because art in Africa is not a commercial enterprise but is part of life itself.
Let me explain. When I was young, I used to watch the fishermen by the banks of the Senegal river. They were working close to the desert in intense heat, and whenever they stopped working they would start to sing. In Podor, people sing naturally about their experiences, their lives and their relationships. It is not just musicians and singers who perform. Everybody has a part to play - even children are allowed to join in if they have the inspiration. It doesn't matter if your voice is not the finest; everyone is involved.
Musicians are respected, but only in the context that the music itself belongs to the community - not to the person who is playing an instrument or singing a song. Those instruments have been developed over many years, while the songs themselves are inspired by the people as a whole rather than by any individual.
But I do, of course, have my own favourite artists - musicians, painters, fashion designers. Some never had the chance to become famous outside Africa, but their work has made a lasting difference to the people who live there.
Like Kouyaté Sory, the inspiration behind African ballet. He gave birth to a whole movement, bringing together people from Benin and Guinea, from Mali, Senegal and Gambia. He took the music from the smallest villages, brought together women who created the songs and dancing to go with it, and then brought it all to the stage. He is a true pioneer, as this was the first time African music had been organised so people could come and see it outside of its usual environment.
And Kouyaté started doing this during the Fifties, before all these African states became independent. It was a tremendous achievement. And all of those who came to see the ballet took something away from the experience, taking these memories and inspiration back home to their own villages, towns and countries.
Then there is Miriam Makeba. Her life has been so important in the story of African music. She was performing when life was very hard for black people in South Africa, yet she tried to address issues such as apartheid. She fled to Guinea as a refugee in the Seventies, which gave her the opportunity to record with West African musicians. The work that she did at that time gave birth to different styles of music, and even now it is an inspiration to people such as me.
When you talk about culture in West Africa, it is impossible to separate dance from music, instruments from costumes. Everything is linked to the communities themselves. One fashion designer who has developed this is Oumou Sy from Senegal, who travels the world presenting her collections. She uses all the elements of art and culture from West Africa.
Then we have visual arts. Some readers would have been fortunate enough to see last year's terrific Africa Remix exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. You could see from this that we have a lot of African painters and sculptors who are getting more conscientious about the role their painting is playing in changing things on the continent. Take Chéri Samba from Congo. When you look at his paintings you can see the traditional African elements, but at the same time he is talking to a modern world, especially young people. So you will see scenes showing the lives of young people in Kinshasa or Abidjan, illustrating the reality and the politics behind Africa's situation in the world. He shows the balance between what leaves Africa for the rest of the world and what is coming back. This is a vital part of the modern African story.
Computers and digital technology are becoming very important to African artists, just as elsewhere. I see it with the impact of hip-hop across the continent. You can see it beginning to have an impact on the visual arts. This will grow in time. Our communities can use new technologies to show off their identities to the rest of the world. And when Africa is shown on the internet and shared with other people, it's important that people are aware of the need to put something back into the continent.
African leaders need to be more conscious of the role that culture can play, particularly economically. Many Western economies - such as Britain - have benefited hugely from the showbusiness and music sector. It generates huge amounts of money and provides significant opportunities to work. Everyone in Africa - whether a politician, musician or businessman or woman - needs to appreciate the role that culture can play in our development.
And I am confident that the more people see of Africa's art and culture, the more they will find the inspiration and joy in it that I have found ever since I first watched those fishermen on the banks of the Senegal river as a child.