Auto-Tuned Africa, by Berlin-based DJ Boris Paillard A.K.A DJ Mixanthrope, is a fun mix of songs from all over the continent and diaspora featuring the now ever-present audio pitch correcting tool, Auto-Tune. Volumes one and two are bookended with insightful and hilarious dialogues of artists talking about the importance of Auto-Tune. In volume two, Ghanaian comedian Clifford Owusu dismisses the accusation that only bad singers use Auto-Tune when he asks,"You know pretty girls still wear makeup, right?"
Auto-Tune, especially on the continent, has been fully embraced and is on full display in the music. Take nanaye music from Kano in Northern Nigeria for example. Producers, heavily influenced by Indian Bollywood music, say that their productions have been “sweetened” by Auto-Tune. You'll hear this effect more prominently in volume one where the Auto-Tune has not only been used to correct the pitch of singers but also to create a new instrument. It emphasizes the melisma sung in Hausa and Arabic music, giving it a unique sound.
In volume two of this mix, the use of Auto-Tune is more toned down, similarly to the sound you might hear in the United States on the radio. These are Afrobeats songs, mainly from Ghana and Nigeria, now popular on the continent and around the world. It shines the spotlight on producers who create the danceable beats that are the main draw of Afrobeats. The singers are mediocre but it doesn't stop the production team from churning out hit after hit with the help of the technology. No matter how you feel about Auto-Tune, you can't deny how it's helping to define the sound of African popular music and presented us with some of the most charismatic stars the content has ever seen.
To learn more about the history of Auto-Tune in Africa and the making of this mix, read Paillard's discussion, with the complete track list, click here. For more mixes by DJ Mixanthrope, check out his SoundCloud page here.