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Best Travel Music Playlist to Inspire Your Trip to Africa

by Jodi Lucas

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Every amazing adventure needs an epic soundtrack, right? Music is audible magic; it has the ability to motivate you to do amazing things and even to carry your mind to a totally new place. 

When it comes to travel, there is no better accompaniment than a feel-good playlist. Whether you’re thinking about going on a wildlife safari in Tanzania, a solo travel adventure in Morocco or city exploring in Cape Town, we’ve got you covered!

Complied with the fun-seeking traveler in mind, here’s a list of the best travel songs to inspire your adventures in Africa and beyond.

18. Senegal Fast Food – Amadou & Mariam ft. Manu Chao (Mali)

Not only is Mali the third largest producer of gold on the African continent, but it also produces an array of feel-good songs that you can’t help but sway to. If you ever wondered what West Africa sounds like, then give Senegal Fast Food a listen.

The artists, Amanda & Mariam, are a Grammy-award-winning duo, and even performed as the opening act for U2 in 2011. What’s even more amazing is that both are completely blind. They’re like the Stevie Wonders of Africa, and their music will give you an all-new appreciation for the continent’s West Coast.

17. Bob Marley - Africa Unite

Who can resist a good Bob Marley track, right? Not only was he an exceptional reggae artist but he was also an inspirational radical whose music provided an influential voice in resistance movements from the Caribbean to Africa.

He first traveled to Africa in 1978, when he visited both Ethiopia and Kenya. Later, he went to Gabon and performed at Zimbabwe's Independence Day celebration in 1980. While his music can be heard across the continent, Ethiopia perhaps has the strongest ties with this legendary artist.

He was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church shortly before his death, and his funeral used both Ethiopian Orthodox elements and Rastafarian tradition. According to his wife, "Ethiopia is his spiritual resting place."

16. Santana - Africa Bamba

Just a few months ago, Santana told me that Africa is his favorite destination… Okay, he told this to a massive crowd of people at his concert in Cape Town and I just happened to be swooning in the front row.

But, the fact still remains, this legendary musician loves Africa and we love him too! In an interview earlier this year, he said “I need to constantly come home and reconnect with my people. I was born in Mexico and raised in the United States, but my home is in Africa”

In case you were wondering how this Portuguese song connects to Africa, there are about 14 million people who use Portuguese as their sole mother tongue in countries such as Mozambique, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. However, it is more than just language; Africa Bamba is a dedication to this continent’s beautiful people and will inspire you to go on a cultural safari to get to know them.

15. Hakuna Matata – Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jason Weaver (Lion King)

More of a guilty pleasure than travel inspiration, Hakuna Matata won’t solve all your problems as Pumba says, but it will inspire happy vibes! And, the best part is, while you’re on a safari in Tanzania, you’ll hear this phrase quite often too!

This Swahili saying from Central East Africa is a real thing. The word "hakuna" means "there is not here" while "matata" means “problems”. Another variation of the phrase is “hakuna wasiwasi" which means "no worries”.

14. Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

If Africa is the motherland, then Miriam Makeba is the continent’s matriarch. Dubbed “Mama Africa”, she is one of the greatest (if not the greatest), best known and best-loved voices in African music. 

Although she was born in a time of struggle, this did not stop her voice from being heard across the world, and today she is widely regarded as the first vocalist to put African music onto the international map in the 1960s.

13. Buffalo Soldier – Bob Marley

If I could put every Bob Marley song on this list, you best believe I would. But, Buffalo Soldier has got to be one of the most iconic African American history songs. The song is inspired by African American soldiers who mainly served on the Western frontier following the American Civil War.

While nobody really knows why they were called “buffalo soldiers”, one theory goes that they fought so bravely that the Native American’s came to revere the soldiers as they did the mighty buffalo.

12. Makeba – Jain

This playful song is an ode to Miriam Makebe, and definitely, one that will have you on your feet.

While growing up, Jain’s French father used to play Miriam Makeba’s records at their home in Toulouse. Since then, she is making waves with her feel good music that draws inspiration from Africa’s legendary vocalist.

11. Xavier Rudd - Mother Earth

Whether your adventures take you to Africa, Australia or anywhere else in the world, Xavier Rudd’s ode to Mother Earth will definitely inspire you to disconnect from your daily life and revel in the beauty of the world.

He’s one of the most respected Australian musicians out there, and he uses his gift of poetry and sound to spread the word about the importance of protecting our Earth and the cultures that make it such a beautiful place to live in.

10. Springbok Nude Girls - Blue Eyes

If you’re looking for an epic road trip montage soundtrack, then this is it! The Springbok Nude girls are the voice of South African chilled rock, and this nostalgic song will inspire you to make epic memories.

The band was one of the first to introduce alternative rock, metal and acid jazz to South Africa back in the 90s and has since inspired other epic South African bands such as Fokofpolisiekar and Prime Circle.

9. Black Coffee - Come With Me

You haven’t heard good house music until you’ve heard Black Coffee. And, if you want a sneak peek into the music you’ll hear while traveling in South Africa today, this is it!

Long before taking on the grand stages of Ibiza, Black Coffee was keeping South African clubgoers on their feet well into the early hours of the morning.

8. Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Nomathemba

The truth is, I tried to find a studio version for every music video on this list just to ensure good sound quality. But, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is so amazing that you probably won’t even believe that the above video is a live recording.

This Grammy-award winning a cappella group sheds a new light on South Africa’s Zulu culture, and have collaborated with epic musicians by the likes of Paul Simon and the English Chamber Orchestra.

7. Sauti Sol - Live and Die in Afrika

Kenya is known for being an epic safari destination but did you know that it is also home to some amazing music too?

This fun afro-pop group started out as an a cappella group before they introduced a guitarist and started adding sun-soaked beats to their inspiring lyrics about Africa.

6. Goldfish - Hold Tight

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Cape Town during South Africa's summer, then this is the perfect song to pack your bags to!

Goldfish are the region’s summer anthem composers, who spin some amazing electro dance songs that can be heard from the city’s rooftop bars to its glittering beachfront cafes.

5. Sol Gems - Standing with the Sun

Maybe it’s just the beach-bum in me, but I am a huge fan of psychedelic Rock n' Roll.

From artists like the Beetles, the Butthole Surfers, Sixto Rodriguez and the Alla Lahs, this genre is just too good. Adding to this legendary list is South Africa’s home-grown band Sol Gems.

Put your headphones on, kick back, close your eyes and let this song take you on a surf journey through South Africa.

4. Tidal Waves - Rapolotiki

Reggae is huge in Africa. And, why not? It is so hard to resist the happy beats that come out of this inspiring genre.

While Marley may have a strong presence here, Tidal Waves are considered the hardest working reggae band in South Africa, often playing over 100 shows a year!

Their chilled out beats are infused with blues, mbaqanga and rock influences, and they feature songs in a variety of languages too, including English, Afrikaans, Setswana and Tshivhenda.

3. Malika Zarra - Run

Malika Zarra is the jazz musician you never thought you needed. Her music is a fusion of traditional Berber music, Gnawa music, Chaabi, French pop, house and funk and the result is nothing short of inspiring. 

This is the kind of song you want to listen to while exploring the souks and alleyways of Morocco.

2. Diamond Platnumz - Fire

This is just a taste of what you’ll hear while navigating the dazzling streets of Tanzania’s city, Dar es Salaam.

Diamond is probably the biggest Tanzanian artist out there. In fact, he is so popular that, if you had to hear a phone ringing, the tone would probably be one of his songs, as he is believed to be the highest selling Tanzanian artist of ringtones. Just one more thing to love about East Africa.

1. Toto - Africa

You must have seen this one coming. Let’s get real here, this list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this song.

Written and performed by the American rock band, Toto, this catchy song is the track to listen just before boarding your plane for a flight down to Africa.

Inspired by Catholic missionaries who would bless the villagers, their Bibles, their books, their crops and, of course, the rain, this classic tune is an epic love story to Africa. 

Feeling inspired yet? Get out there and listen to the sounds of Africa for yourself on an epic cultural safari.

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