A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Cupid's iPod: An African and Diaspora Slow Jams Mix
By Cynthia Nakpodia-Ribeiro

Valentine's Day is here again so we're giving you the most romantic sounds this side of Cupid's harp strings. We searched our LPs, CDs and MP3s to create the ultimate soundtrack to your love story. Nothing seals the deal quite like a compilation of African  and diaspora slow jams personally (it's our lil' secret) hand picked for that special someone.

Track 1- Ghanaian chanteuse Rhian Benson's song Say How I Feel off her debut album, Gold Coast, is a classic butterflies-in-your-belly track. Its spritely tempo and Rhian's amazing voice do a great job of conveying "I Love You."

Track 2- Lyrically Kem  is simply delicious and he sings to you--yes you! Heaven, on the aptly titled Album II, is a song that oozes romantic charm with Kem's signature mature elegance. A soulful piano plays lightly in the background echoing his intimate lyrics.

Track 3- Another soulful brother to consider is Nigerian-Brit Lemar, whose style and heartfelt delivery is reminiscent of Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke rolled into one. On the Time to Grow CD the sonic jewel If There Is Any Justice, exemplifies his heartbreakingly perfect voice while the music stays delicately simple and fresh.

Track 4-  If French is the language of love then you surely can't leave out Rwandan ex-pat Corneille's album Les Marchands de Reve. He sings with an endearing emotion that touches your soul.  Non-french speakers need not worry because his music transcends language barriers. On Reposez en Paix, a silky Corneille frees your heart.

Track 5- Ghana's Jeremiah is a class act with painful honesty dripping like bittersweet honey on his tongue. His debut album Chasing Forever is the quintessential lovers' CD- its music and lyrics are masterfully done in the spirit of true rhythm and blues. On the duet Love For A While featuring Shanice, their voices compliment each other as Jeremiah achingly sings "I want to love you like nobody's loved you." Watch out now he'll charm your socks off.

Track 6- A young and impressive Ayo, a Corinne Bailey Rae sound-alike, is organic and melodic on her debut release Joyful. Ayo captures you with her youthful and sentimental spirit in a musical landscape of island jazz injected with Mississippi Blues guitar licks. On Down On My Knees her voice is a cool breeze on a hot summer's eve.

Track 7- Freshlyground's track Nomvula, is sung in Xhosa lyrics that have little to do with romance. But Zolani Mahola's voice is in the key of love- sensually accompanied by a lilting violin. The album offers acoustic warmth and a hypnotic mix of electric and acoustic.

Track 8- She's a little bit Miriam Makeba, a smidgen of Ella Fitzgerald with a drop of Nina Simone spirit. Yet Somi's style is so unique and particular, that she belongs in a class by herself. An elegant dark chocolate beauty, she takes indigenous Rwandan and Ugandan vocal patterns and weaves them into blissful jazzy progressions. Somi is a perfect picture of the New African woman. Check out Ingele on the Red Soil In My Eyes album.

Track 9- Who doesn't adore Salif Keita besides being a talented Malian musician there is a longing in his voice that unearths emotions and makes you want to gaze into the moon lit sky. His ballads are ethereal and magically laid out on a bed of acoustic West African rhythms. Listen to Yamore on the album Moffou- Salif's duet with barefoot diva Cesaria Evora.

Track 10- Deeply sensuous and sultry, Meshell Ndegeocello  is the epitome of the suggestive. Combine her thumping bass line and the velvet texture of her voice and you have milk and honey. Films like Love & Basketball and Love Jones used Meshell's music to portray emotion that scripts and characters could not. Your compilation would be incomplete without Outside Your Door from her first album Plantation Lullabies- complete musical perfection.

Track 11 Uber laid back Nigerian singer-songwriter Sade Adu is known for her haunting love songs, unique voice, and melancholic delivery. However this beauty has penned some classic love songs that glide on breezy smooth jazz arrangements. With lines like "when I was led to you/I knew you were the one for me/ I swear the whole world could feel my heart beat" she should just be known as the lady of love. Try Kiss of Life from The Best of Sade.

Track 12- The mother of all quiet storm albums is Rapture by Anita Baker. Nobody does it like Ms. Anita. A woman with charisma, talent and ageless beauty, she left the music business void of someone to fill her place. The track Caught Up In The Rapture stands as possibly the most favorite love struck couple ballads of all times. It's a seamless combination of soulful jazz and R&B.

This is a mix tape you can fall in love to.