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Remembering Tina Turner’s influence on African music

 A black and white photo of Tina Turner and her backup singers at the Soul to Soul Festival in Ghana
Ike and Tina Turner performed at the Soul to Soul Festival in Ghana in 1971.

Legendary singer Tina Turner, who died recently at the age of 83, marked the whole world with her music, especially Africa, a continent to which she remained attached.

On March 6, 1971, Ike and Tina Turner and some of America's greatest Black artists traveled to Accra, Ghana to take part in the Soul to Soul Festival which later became known as "African Woodstock." At the airport, they were greeted by a huge crowd of people together with traditional drummers and dancers, an honor usually reserved for heads of state on official visits. A high priest poured libations to welcome these soul singers to their ancestral land. More than 100,000 people attended the historic concert, and for fourteen hours, they listened to a mix of traditional African and Black American music.

The lineup also featured Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers, Santana, Roberta Flack, The Voices of East Harlem, and others. On the same bill were Ghanaian highlife and gospel bands and traditional drum ensembles.Soul to Soul was one of the very few major concerts to take place in this region of the continent. American father and son team Ed and Tom Mosk pitched the idea of a concert to the Ghana Arts Council in 1970 and after the success of James Brown’s concert that year in Lagos, Nigeria, the concept seemed viable. The Soul to Soul Festival was held as a celebration of the 14th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.

Ike & Tina Turner Ghana Soul To Soul 1971

The West African country was the backdrop for a sort of homecoming for these Black American stars whose music we heard on the local government radios or on shortwave broadcasts from America. People came in droves from neighboring countries to witness this mega event. It did not matter whether you were French-speaking and did not understand what these singers were saying in their songs, the most important thing was that they were the famous musicians we read about in magazines and heard on the radio and they are going to be amongst us. Many African youths of the time identified with the Black Americans’ culture, fashion, and music.

Ike and Tina Turner’s performance at this festival subsequently reverberated through the West African music scene. This built momentum, inspiring a great number of singers in both English and French-speaking countries. Tina Turner’s wide vocal range and theatrical stage presence, along with Ike’s band's intense funky groove, made an immense impression on many African musicians. Many bands that formed in the years after the Soul to Soul Festival blended the local sounds of highlife, afrorock, afrobeat, funk, and juju. Powerful sax harmonies and catchy guitar riffs played African style with an incomparable psychedelic twist in the spirit of soul and funk.

With her music and endless passion for the craft, Tina awed millions of fans around the world and inspired many Africans. Thank you, Tina!

Here are some bands that made the heydays of the style:

Osibisa /Ghana

Tungi Oyelena & the Benders/Nigeria

Ebo Taylor/Ghana

Alhaji K. Frimpong/Ghana

William Onyeabor/Nigeria

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo/Benin

Muyei Power/Sierra Leone


Super Eagles/Gambia

Geraldo Pino & The Heartbeats/Sierra Leone

the Funkees/Nigeria

Sjob Movement/Nigeria

Saxon Lee and The Shadows International/Nigeria

El Rego et ses Commandos/Benin


Pazy and the Black Hippies/Nigeria


Emmanuel Nado is at the forefront of promoting African music and culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is from Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, a country which for many years has been the crossroad of African popular music. As a journalist, promoter and radio producer, Nado is an active force in the African music scene in the U.S. In the early '90s, his published articles on African music and the artists were eye openers to many Bay Area African music aficionados.