tUnE-yArDs‘ versatile, experimental, undeniably catchy music has always done a good job reflecting a number of influences and themes. From Merril Garbus’s vocal acrobatics to the soul-busting, percussive nature of her band, tUnE-yArDs’ music has proven to be as impossible to pin down as it is enjoyable.

You can get some sense of what moves Ms. Merrill thanks to a 28-minute mix she put together for Africa In Your Earbuds, featuring a number of “vintage finds from East Africa.” As she explains, to Okay Africa:

No doubt, I have a limited knowledge of African music, because, well, that’s an entire continent and thousands of years of music, and a girl from Connecticut only has so many hours in a day. So for this mix I delved into my old favorites, artists who have influenced what I do now, as well as some things I’ve been introduced to fairly recently.


Music from Tanzania, whether the traditional Wagogo music of The Zawose Family or the Muziki wa dansi (dance music) tunes of the 80s, has really been an inspiration to me. As has Johnny Clegg and Savuka, one of the first mixed-race bands out of South Africa. I grew up on this “Moliva” track. And then a couple dance tunes that I can’t stop listening to, one from a few years ago out of Nigeria by 9Ice. NICE! And then an ndombolo track from Koffi Olomide, which was what everybody was listening to when I was in Kenya in 2000.