William Onyeabor, Nigerian funk music pioneer, RIP

William Onyeabor, the Nigerian musician who pioneered African electro-funk in the 1970s, has died. He was 70-years-old. Onyeabor's music experienced a resurgence in recent years thanks to the Luaka Bop label's reissues of his deeply groovy albums. From Luaka Bop:

It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we have to announce that the great Nigerian business leader and mythic music pioneer William Onyeabor has passed away at the age of 70. He died peacefully in his sleep following a brief illness, at his home in Enugu, Nigeria. An extraordinary artist, businessman and visionary, Mr. Onyeabor composed and self-released 9 brilliant albums of groundbreaking electronic-funk from 1977-1985, which he recorded, pressed and printed at Wilfilms Limited—his personal pressing plant in southeast Nigeria.

For people in his hometown of Enugu, Nigeria, Mr. Onyeabor was simply referred to as "The Chief”. He was known for having created many opportunities for the people in his community. In his early 30s, he traveled the world to study record manufacturing, so that he could build, "the greatest record manufacturing business in all of West Africa." After those successful years as an artist and record label President in the 1980's, he opened a flour mill and food processing business. In 1987 these new business ventures saw him awarded West African Industrialist of the Year—just two years after the release of his most successful song "When The Going is Smooth and Good", and what should have been the height of his musical career. He was given the honorary title "Justice of the Peace"—a local judicial position elected by the community to provide independent legal ruling.

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Listen: Hugo-winner Nnedi Okorafor's story, Spider the Artist

Tony from Starshipsofa writes, "StarShipSofa is very proud to have Hugo winning author Nnedi Okorafor on this week's show (MP3) with her story 'Spider the Artist,' first published in the anthology Seeds of Change. Nnedi Okorafor is the Hugo winning novelist of Nigeria-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. The narration is by Aminat Badara." Read the rest

Ten of 2016's most notable African science fiction and fantasy stories

James Mazi writes, "Wole Talabi, a Nigerian SF writer and editor who lives in Malaysia, has rounded up his ten favorite African science fiction and fantasy stories of 2016. This is a follow up to his list from 2015 and just like that list, the stories are wildly varied, from fun techno-thrillers set in Uganda to emotional universe-spanning stories of family." Read the rest

In Africa, British spies target allied leaders, executives, and telcoms engineers

Le Monde has published a new collection of documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that the British spy agency GCHQ targeted the leaders of allied countries in Africa, as well as business executives and employees of telecommunications companies, whose accounts were a means to gaining access to communications infrastructure across the continent. Read the rest

Trumpism in Gambia: "marbles" election sparks internet shutdown

Deji writes, "Gambia is a small country but this story is pretty crazy. The president, who is seeking his 6th term, is using Trump rhetoric surrounding the 'rigging of elections.' People are voting by using marbles. Meanwhile, opposition activists and journalists have been arrested -- and the government STILL shut off the internet. It seems the president has lost his marbles." Read the rest

Amazing photos from Kinshasa's scrap car-parts megamarket

The N’Djili district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo is home to an enormous market of scrap auto-parts, carefully salvaged from Japan's waste-stream and meticulously arrayed on blankets by merchants eking out a marginal existence. Read the rest

Internet of Things botnet threatens to knock the entire country of Liberia offline

The various Mirai botnets, which use "clumsy, amateurish code to take over even more clumsy and amateurish CCTVs, routers, PVRs and other Internet of Things devices, have been responsible for some eye-popping attacks this season: first there was the 620Gbps attack on journalist Brian Krebs (in retaliation for his coverage of a couple of petty Israeli crooks); then there was the infrastructure attack that took out Level 3, Netflix, Twitter, Dyn, and many more of the internet's best-defended services. Read the rest

Calling bullshit on "leapfrogging"

Technology cheerleaders love to talk "leapfrogging," the idea that developing regions that haven't adopted traditional technology (like an electrical grid or banking systems) can jump straight to the newest, "better," thing more quickly. Occasionally, that's true, like in parts of Africa where empowering mobile phones took off long before most people had landlines. Now the big idea is that drones will negate the need for roads, and save lives in the process. The Economist presents a more measured view:

...Such caveats hardly dampen the mood at business conferences in Africa, where you find hundreds of investors gushing about their plans to help the poor with new technology and make big profits while doing it. “Within the next few years you’ll really see leapfrogging taking off,” says Ashish Thakkar, a British-born, Ugandan businessman whose Mara Group, a business-services firm, is setting up tech businesses across the continent. Perhaps, but tech booms based on leapfrogging have been wrongly anticipated in the past. Americans who turn up in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with millions of dollars hoping to buy startups that have risen as part of the so-called “Silicon Savannah”, an east African cluster, for example, frequently leave empty-handed because there isn’t all that much to buy.

African tech types often think they can quickly copy rich-country products and sell them to the urban middle class. But then they discover that there is no getting around complex tax laws, a dearth of engineers and fragmented markets. The Western investors who back them have even less grasp of just how dysfunctional basic infrastructure can be, notes Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan investor and a political activist.

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Shot in the '70s, North African Villages shows medieval villages unchanged by modernity

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

North African Villages: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia by Norman F. Carver Documan Pr Ltd 1989, 200 pages, 9 x 10.5 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $24 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the 1970s an architectural student drove a VW van around Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and northern Africa, recording the intact medieval villages still operating in their mountain areas. The hill towns at that time in Italy, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia kept a traditional way of building without architects, using indigenous materials, without straight streets, producing towns of uncommon attractiveness. The architect, Norman Carver, later self published a series of photo books documenting these remote villages which had not yet been interrupted with modernity. They looked, for most purposes, like they looked 1,000 years ago. All of Carter’s books are worthwhile, but my favorite is North African Villages. Here you get a portrait of not just the timeless architecture, but also a small glimpse of the lives that yielded that harmony of the built upon the born. It’s an ideal of organic design, that is, design that is accumulated over time. Read the rest

100 African science fiction writers you should be reading

Canadian/British science fiction and fantasy author Geoff Ryman, author of the incredible novel WAS, has begun a series in which he profiles 100 working science fiction and fantasy writers in Africa, place by place, starting with Nairobi. Read the rest

Children and babies are dying in Nigerian military detention, where they're buried in mass graves

Amnesty International says at least 149 detainees have died "in horrendous conditions" at a military detention site in northeastern Nigeria this year. Among them were 11 children under the age of 6 years old, and four babies who are said to have died of untreated measles.

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Children in Uganda watch a hobbyist's drone fly for the first time, and totally flip out

The way these schoolchildren in rural Uganda react to a hobbyist's drone flight demo is so delightful. Honestly, my reaction when I first saw a friend navigate his UAV into the air was about the same.

Mark Brandon Smith shot this wonderful video, and tells the tale behind it.

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Ten of 2015's most notable African science fiction and fantasy stories

Wole Talabi, a Nigerian sf writer who lives in Malaysia, has rounded up his ten favorite African science fiction and fantasy stories of 2015. Like Africa, the stories are wildly varied, each as different from the other as they are from the sf you're likely to read coming out of Europe and North America. Read the rest

Carnage returns to Nigeria as Boko Haram terrorist attack kills 30, wounds 80 or more

An overnight blast blamed on the Islamic extremist terror organization Boko Haram killed 32 people and wounded 80 Tuesday at a truck stop in northeastern Nigeria.

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China plans to ban ivory trade “within a year or so.” US official: Yes it's a “huge” deal.

During his visit to Washington last month, China's President Xi Jinping vowed to stop the commercial trade in ivory in his nation, but didn't say much about when or how.

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In Uganda, a white German aid worker becomes an unlikely local pop star

Student Deena Herr, 22, has recently become a very unlikely superstar in the East African nation of Uganda.

Meet Homo naledi, the distant ancestor you never knew

In South Africa, scientists have unearthed a humanoid species from what appears to be a burial chamber hidden deep inside a system of caves. They discovered 15 partial skeletons, with evidence leading researchers to believe the hominids had enough intelligence to conduct rituals. This is the single largest discovery of its kind ever in Africa, and scientists claim it will change our ideas about our human ancestors. More on the findings in the journal Elife.

BBC News:

The species, which has been named naledi, has been classified in the grouping, or genus, Homo, to which modern humans belong. The researchers who made the find have not been able to find out how long ago these creatures lived - but the scientist who led the team, Prof Lee Berger, told BBC News that he believed they could be among the first of our kind (genus Homo) and could have lived in Africa up to three million years ago.

The team of scientists who discovered the Homo naledi remains pose for a picture

Here's the abstract:

Homo naledi is a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. This species is characterized by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations but a small endocranial volume similar to australopiths. Cranial morphology of H. naledi is unique, but most similar to early Homo species including Homo erectus, Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis. While primitive, the dentition is generally small and simple in occlusal morphology.

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