Six Africans Who Made Rolling Stone’s ‘200 Greatest Singers of All Time’

Popular American magazine Rolling Stone has released their list of the “200 Greatest Singers of All Time”. The publication first published the list in 2008 but has released a new updated list to reflect the state of the modern world. This updated list includes six African performers who are celebrated for how their ability to ‘remake the world just by opening their mouths.’ The list that was released on January 1st, according to Rolling Stone, is “the Greatest Singers list, not the Greatest Voices list,” with the singers being “the voices that have altered history and defined our lives.”


Sade, a Nigerian-born singer who became well-known in the 1980s New Romantic movement in London, was ranked at number 51. According to the magazine, the fashion designer-turned-musician proved herself to be the ultimate smooth operator with singles like “Your Love Is King,” “Kiss of Life,” and “The Sweetest Taboo.”

  • Sade Adu/ Getty Images 

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba, a vocal personality fountain who is playful, strong, flexible, and incisive, was ranked at number 53. Her songs, “Pata Pata” or “Lakutshon Ilanga,” which she made popular in the 1959 movie Come Back, Africa, is among her compositions. Despite her lifetime advocacy, Makeba frequently refused the label of being political, despite the fact that she was a South African artist who lived through apartheid.

  • Miriam Makeba/Getty Images

Youssou N’Dour

At number 69 is Senegalesse singer Youssou N’Dour. His early recordings from the late 1970s with his band Étoile de Dakar, which are included on Vol. 1: Absa Gueye, are still astounding due to N’Dour’s sky-high tenor, which is as immediately commanding as a young Michael Jackson. According to Rolling Stone, N’Dour “came full circle” with 2021’s Mbalax by “reinterpreting his own high-energy past with a softened but nonetheless forceful style.”

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Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde

Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde of South Africa came in at position 153. The magazine refers to “The Lion of Soweto”—also known as “goat voice”—as “a matchless character in the history of South African music.” He has the “talent of a basso profundo moan that rattles the clouds, and a knowing, playful, at times diabolically acute awareness of what to do with it,” according to Rolling Stone.

  • Mahlatini/Getty Images

Fela Kuti

With music that “shared and anti-colonialist, Pan-African worldview and attacked Nigeria’s corrupt military dictatorship, which frequently subjected him and those around him to enormous pain,” Nigerian Fela Kuti came in at number 188. Kuti’s classic songs from the 1970s and 1980s are described as “vast orchestral instrumentals, and inventive swirls of African highlife, American soul, and jazz” by Rolling Stone.

It stated that “his voice carried his vision,” adding that “his tone was authoritative and direct, clear and firm.” He croons, “I say, I sing, I implore everyone to join my song,” in his song “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense,” which takes aim at whitewashed education and failed governments.

  • Fela Kuti/Getty Images 

Burna Boy

Burna Boy, another Nigerian, ranked 197 and was referred to by the publication as “A Nigerian cultural powerhouse and ambassador of Afrobeats.” The article referred to his musical style as “a worldwide trend that may seem equally at home ascending the European charts and preserving a subtle emotional connection with previous African genres like highlife.”

  • Burna Boy/WireImages

The top ten on the list are Al Greene, Otis Redding (9), Beyonce (8), Steven Wonder (7), Ray Charles (6), Mariah Carey (5), Billy Holiday (4), Sam Cooke (3), Whitney Houston (2) and Aretha Franklin (1).

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