A playlist in honor of this week’s Africa summit in D.C.

Is it possible to cram an entire continent’s sound into a listicle? Probably not. With more sovereign countries than the U.S. has states, Africa has too many musical traditions (and modern pop variations) to name offhand. But that didn’t stop C. Brian Williams, founder and executive director of Step Afrika!, the locally based and internationally known dance company, from ticking off his favorite songs from the continent for this week’s mix. As Washington hosts 51 African heads of state and Step Afrika! begins celebrating its 20th anniversary season, a playlist celebrating African music is in order–even if it’s abridged.

1. “Africa Unite” — Bob Marley and the Wailers

“No one has ever sung to the heart and spirit of Africa like Bob Marley. A friend from Morocco once told me he learned to speak English from Bob Marley records.”

2. “Vul’indela” — Brenda Fassie
“This song is dear because of its message of transformation, evolution and commitment. One popular African proverb says, ‘In order for one to come, one must open the way.’ ”

3. “Stimela” — Hugh Masekela

“Hugh and his horn have carried the sounds of Africa to every corner of the world. This song tells the story of men who worked in the diamond and gold mines of South Africa.”

4. “Zombie” — Fela Kuti

“His gift to the world, afrobeat, demonstrated the power of music and art to motivate and empower. Plus, it’s the best dance music EVER.”

5. “Untold Story” — Sibongile Khumalo

“One of my favorite songs of all time from the continent. Hauntingly beautiful.”

6. “Madan” — Salif Keita

“The lion of Africa hails from Mali.”

7. “The Click Song” — Miriam Makeba

“She is known as Mama Afrika. Nuff said.”

8. “Azonto” — Wizkid

“Azonto is more than just a dance or song, it embodies the passion and life of the youth on the continent and determines to share their artistry and vision for the future.”

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Helena Andrews is the co-author of The Reliable Source. Follow her on Twitter @helena_andrews, and send your hot tips, sightings, and gossip to reliablesource@washpost.com.
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