1960s African Psychedelic Rock You Need to Know

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for some new tunes to add to your playlist? Check out our list of 1960s African psychedelic rock bands that you need to know!

The 1960s in Africa

Africa in the 1960s was a time of change and turmoil. Many countries were gaining their independence from colonial powers and trying to figure out their place in the world. This was also a time when African music began to take on a new sound. Psychedelic rock was a new genre that was influenced by Western music but had its own African twist.

The political climate

In the 1960s, many African countries became independent from colonial rule. This led to a new wave of African music that was inspired by traditional music, but also by Western popular music. This new music became known as Afro-rock, and it was a blend of African and Western influences.

In the 1970s, Afro-rock continued to evolve, and it began to incorporate more electronic instruments and influences from other genres of music. This new sound became known as afrobeat, and it was pioneered by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. Afrobeat quickly spread throughout Africa and the rest of the world, and it continues to be popular today.

The social climate

The 1960s saw a period of great social and political change across the world. In Africa, this was no different. The decade was a time of decolonization, as countries in Africa fought for their independence from European colonial powers. It was also a time of great cultural change, as traditional music began to be infused with elements of rock and roll, jazz, and blues.

This new African music became known as “Afro-rock” or “psychedelic Afro-rock.” It was characterized by its heavy use of electric guitars, drums, and bass guitar, as well as its African-inspired melodies and rhythms. Some of the most famous Afro-rock bands included Blo, Osibisa, Fela Ransome Kuti & the Africa ’70, and Manu Dibango.

This new form of music reflected the social climate of the times; it was rebellious and anti-establishment, and it spoke to the experience of being black in a world that was still largely segregated. Afro-rock provided a voice for a generation of Africans who were demanding change.

The music of the 1960s in Africa

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that was inspired by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic rock often uses new recording techniques and effects and draws on non-Western sources, particularly Indian classical music.

The birth of African rock

The 1960s in Africa was a time of great change, both politically and musically. African musicians began to experiment with Western rock music, creating their own distinctive sound. This new style of music, known as African rock, would go on to have a profound impact on the development of popular music in Africa.

African rock was born out of the confluence of two very different musical traditions: traditional African music and Western rock music. African musicians had long been exposed to Western pop and rock music through the radio and records, but it wasn’t until the early 1960s that they began to experiment with these sounds in their own music. The result was a new style of music that combined the best elements of both traditions: the catchy melodies and driving rhythms of Western rock with the complex harmonies and rich textures of traditional African music.

African rock quickly gained popularity throughout the continent, as it spoke to the experience of a generation of Africans who were coming of age in a time of great political change. The music reflected the feeling of optimism and possibility that was in the air at this time, as well as the youth’s growing dissatisfaction with the way things were. African rock bands addressed many of the same issues that Western bands were writing about, such as war, social injustice, and even love. But they did so with their own unique perspective, which made their music all the more powerful.

The 1960s was just the beginning for African rock; it would go on to have a lasting impact on popular music in Africa and beyond. But its origins can be traced back to this decade, when a new generation of African musicians began to experiment with sounds from across the globe to create something truly unique.

The influence of American and British rock

In the late 1960s, Western rock music began exerting a considerable influence on African popular music, particularly in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). A number of factors contributed to this development, including the increasing availability of Western rock records and, crucially, the arrival of affordable transistor radios, which allowed young Africans to listen to this music in private.

During this period, a number of African musicians began to experiment with incorporating elements of Western rock into their own distinctive styles. The results were often thrilling and sometimes baffling to Western ears, but always profoundly original. Here are just a few examples of the wonderful music that was created during this extraordinary period.

The rise of African psychedelic rock

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new wave of African rock bands began to emerge, influenced by the psychedelic rock sounds coming out of Europe and the United States. These bands began to experiment with new sounds and styles, incorporating elements of traditional African music into their work.

The result was a genre of music that was both exciting and new, blending the best of both worlds. African psychedelic rock was born.

Some of the most influential and groundbreaking bands of this era include Osibisa, Blo, Fela Kuti, and Magical Power Mako. These groups took the African rock sound in new and exciting directions, helping to shape the sound of an entire generation.

African psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s

African psychedelic rock is a genre of rock music that developed in Africa in the 1960s. It is characterized by its incorporation of African musical elements such as rhythms and sounds, as well as its use of Western instruments and production techniques. African psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s blended these elements to create a unique and original sound.

The Equals

The Equals were a British rock band formed in North London in 1965. The group was notable for having a racially mixed lineup; lead singer Derv Gordon was black, as were bass player Patrick Allen and drummer John Hall. The rest of the group was white: guitarist Eddy Grant, keyboardist Francis Gerry Callagher, and saxophonist/guitarist/flautist Roman Stewart.

The band’s album Unequaled Equals was released in 1967, and contained their only hit single, “Hold Me Closer”. The album reached number 12 on the UK Albums Chart. The band’s second album, Again, was released in 1968 and failed to chart. A third album, Baby Come Back, was recorded but not released until 1969 due to creative differences between the band and its record label, President Records.

The band broke up in 1969, but reformed briefly in 1979 with new members; this lineup recorded an album titled United We Stand before splitting up again later that year. Grant went on to have a successful solo career; he remains the only Equals member to have continued making music after the band’s dissolution.


Formed in London in 1969, Osibisa was a pioneering Afro-rock band that blended African rhythms and instrumentation with western rock and jazz. The band’s name is a portmanteau of the words “osibirock” and “Africa”, and their music reflected their diverse range of influences. Osibisa’s positive, upbeat sound was hugely popular in the 1970s, and they went on to release a string of successful albums including Woyaya (1971), Black Magic Night (1972), and Sunshine Day (1973). The band continued to tour and record throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and they remain an influential force in African music today.


Blo was a Nigerian Afro-rock band formed in Lagos in 1966. The band members were Larry Ogunbannedjo (vocals, percussion), Steve Black (bass), Joe Mensah (drums), and Mike Odumosu (guitar). Blo’s sound was a mixture of rock, funk, and traditional Nigerian music. Their first album, Blo Forever, was released in 1968. The album featured the singles “Chant to Mother Earth” and “Down.” Blo disbanded in 1970.

The Nocturnes
The Nocturnes was a Kenyan rock band formed in Nairobi in 1966. The band members were Robert Mkochi (vocals, guitar), Teddy Ndomi (bass), John Njunge (drums), and Sammy Mwangi (percussion). The Nocturnes’ sound was influenced by the British Invasion bands of the 1960s. Their first album, The Nocturnes, was released in 1967. The album featured the singles “No More Tears” and “How Long Must IWait?” The Nocturnes disbanded in 1969.

Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans
Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans was a Ghanaian highlife band formed in Accra in 1967. The band members were Ebo Taylor (vocals, guitar), Amenya F Dube (bass), Gyedu Blay Ambolley(drums), and Sol Amarfio(percussion). Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans’ sound was a mix of highlife and Afro-beat. Their first album, Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans, was released in 1968. The album featured the singles “Heaven,” “Africa,” and “pelikan.” Ebo Taylor and the Pelikans disbanded in 1971.

The legacy of African psychedelic rock

The psychedelic sound of the 60s didn’t just come from the Western world. In fact, many African artists were experimenting with psychedelic sounds and creating their own unique brand of psychedelic rock. Some of these artists, like Osibisa and Neka, would go on to become international stars. But even if you’ve never heard of them, their music is worth seeking out.

The influence on subsequent generations

Psychedelic rock from Africa has had a lasting impact on subsequent generations of musicians both within the continent and beyond. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of African bands began to experiment with new approaches to making music, incorporating elements of psychedelia into their sound. These bands would go on to influence a new generation of African musicians, who would in turn create their own brand of psychedelic rock.

Today, African psychedelic rock is enjoying something of a renaissance, as a new generation of musicians are rediscovering the genre and bringing it to new audiences. This revival is not limited to Africa – there are now African psychedelic rock bands making waves all over the world. If you’re looking for something new and exciting, check out some of these bands and see what they have to offer.

The influence on world music

Psychedelic rock from Africa was hugely influential in the development of world music. The sounds and rhythms of this genre can be heard in the music of artists like Santana, Talking Heads, and Paul Simon. African psychedelic rock is characterized by its use of extended jams, funky basslines, and psychedelic guitar riffs. The lyrics are often political and grapple with themes of social justice and liberation. This type of rock was popularized by artists like Fela Kuti, Mulatu Astatke, and Osibisa.

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