Top 10 African music 2017
Some of the best musical tracks created in Africa during the year that has been New musical productions, effervescent urban sounds and delicious melodies for our selective ears, avid for good music, has given us this 2017 that begins its countdown. A multitude of diverse genres have reached us from the south of the Sahara, sometimes they have transcended its borders, others have only reached local audiences. But throughout the year, African music leaves us practically ecstatic for its quality, originality and diversity. And we want to celebrate it!
Top 10 African music 2017
Before beginning to celebrate that one more year we are still standing and without being able to stop moving our eyelashes with the musical frenzy of the neighboring continent, Africa is not a country and Wiriko we join forces to present you a subjective and retrospective TOP 10 with the best of this 2017. So that you can make it sound during the Christmas meals, in the end of the year celebrations or simply so that it accompanies you during the next days. For this we offer several platforms: you can listen to this piece in radio format HERE, put the YouTube playlist we have prepared for you, or, as usual in this section, enjoy one by one with the videos and comments of the chosen ones that we propose below.
Elida Almeida – Kebrada (Lusafrica) – Cape Verde
Two years after she debuted with her Ora doci Ora margos (Sweet Bitter Times), which at just 24 years of age has been postulated as the new voice of Cape Verde, presented last October 20: Kebrada. Nicknamed after the name of the region in which he grew up as a child, Kebrada is an affirmation of the most hybrid African identity, and of the round-trip resonances that have so marked the sounds of the black Atlantic. In it, Elida Almeida is consolidated with a well-nourished proposal based on Cape Verdean rhythms such as batuque, funaná, coladera and tabanka delicately seasoned with Latin music. A catchy recipe both in its most danceable and festive hymns and in its most melancholic cuts, which is not exempt from social criticism. In the ballad Forti Dor, one of our favourite songs, Almeida tells the story of the young man who dies in the middle of a crowd. In Grogu Kaba, Elida’s voice laments the beatings a rum drinker gives his wife three times a day… Almeida is here to stay!
Kokoko – Tokoliana (Ici Leble) – Democratic Republic of Congo
Tokolian means we’re eating each other, in Lingala. It is also the title of the album presentation of the collective Kokoko, a group from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), based in Kinshasa, which makes its own instruments from recycled materials. A work full of hypnotic clues and political messages that are born from the reality of living in the DRC. They call their techno sound kitueni or zagué, in Lingala, but despite that, they get a punk touch. Behind this collective is the French producer Débruit, who helps them make the leap onto the international scene.
The first single that came to us from this work is called the LP and was accompanied by a video directed by the German filmmaker Makus Hofko that focuses on the pygmies “for being the losers of Congolese society, looted by logging companies and despised by many in the country”,” he told the digital magazine Nowness. The images were filmed during a pygmy ritual called wale, which occurs when a woman gives birth to her first child.
Amazones d’Afrique – Republique Amazone (Real World Records) – West Africa
This 2017, a dozen of the leading African divas of yesterday’s and today’s song (including Angélique Kidjo, Mariam Doumbia de Amadou & Mariam or Nneka), have come together to give voice to women in West Africa and sing against gender inequalities and prevailing machismo. Their debut album, República Amazona, is one of the most surprising and powerful sound bombs to reach our hands in recent months. Produced by Liam Farrell, it was released on March 10, making it clear that the electronic footprint and Afro-Futurist distortions that brought Mbongwana Star to fame last year were an infallible formula. Frenetic rhythms that do not lose elegance in any of the cuts and where I Play The Kora stands out, claiming that the woman takes the helm (the kora is an instrument traditionally played by men). The theme that has sounded most on the dance floors is, unmistakably, Dombolo with the Beninese Kidjo at her front, who carries the strength and legacy of the everyday warriors of Africa: women. A perfect soundtrack for the year of #MeToo.
Janka Nabay – Build Music (Luaka Bop) – Sierra Leone
Janka Nabay has always done what has come to be known as electronic bubu. In the 90’s she recorded some tapes with this sound in her native Sierra Leone which sold very well. Bubu is a traditional music that is produced by blowing bamboo canes of different sizes and is accompanied by various percussion instruments. It is perhaps one of the oldest in the region.
The war caused Nabay to leave his country for the United States, where he made his living working in hotels and fast food restaurants. Little by little he has begun to rebuild his musical career with Bubu Gang. In March of this year he published a new work called Build Music. He owns the song Sabonah (which can be translated as This is ours or this belongs to us, more or less). It is a song that was already recorded in the 90’s, in one of those tapes he made in his country, and now recovers and updates. The video accompanying the song directed by Wills Glasspiegel in collaboration with Benjamin Dominic and John Llori in Freetown is very interesting.
Mokoomba – Luyando (Out Here Records) – Zimbabwe
Five years after breaking into the music market with the album Rising Tide, Zimbabwe’s most successful youth band, Mokoomba (which means mother love in Tonga), has hit this 2017 with a new approach to their Zimrock and Congolese rumba with much more poetic, lyrical, soft but full of energy, with their new LP Luyando. In it, they wanted to synthesize the sonorous tradition of their home, the Victoria Falls. They sing in four Zimbabwean languages (Tonga, Shona, Luvala, Ndebele), as well as English, in a set that includes advice on how to deal with lions and where water from the Falls flows like blood through the veins of its members. The vocal harmonies and relaxed tone of the disc, present an organic sound and without adulterations that naked the central recipe of Mokoomba and makes us descend to the most rooted culture of one of the most wonderful places on the planet. A reconstituting album for the year in which Mugabe leaves the “throne” of the country after 37 years in power.
Elemotho – Beatiful World (Arc Music) – Namibia
This album is a small jewel that deepens the soul of human beings and nature. The Namibian composer and singer shares the memories of his childhood, of those stories that are told around the fire in the Kalahari desert, travels the fate of human beings, draws hope from the most lost and beauty of darkness. Elemotho sings in English and in several languages of his country accompanied by various instruments including the guitar, violin, accordion, mbira, conga …
The LP addresses the condition of African man. But it does not focus on the negative, as so many others do, or on oppression, but invites listeners to take control of their destiny. For example, in the title track of the album, he sings the chorus: “You have eyes, you have a mind, you have hands, you have everything”. Sediegi (Don’t stray) is a version of a funerary theme that repeats: “a life without a dream is like a stream without water”. Kuruman talks about migration… All this is summed up in the theme that served as a presentation for this work, Black man, and which is marked by a kind of mantra that the djembe rubrica and where the spirit of Fela Kuti or Steve Biko are very present. The accompanying video is powerful and loaded with provocative images of poverty, violence, dignity, economic inequality and spiritual schizophrenia to show the imaginary of the black man in Namibia after independence. Elemotho says that with this song he wants to talk about subjects such as truth, freedom and dignity, which in reality characterizes the human being.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Uyai (Merge Records) – Nigeria/UK
The Nigerian Eno Williams, alma mater behind the explosive Ibibio Sound Machine project, once again shows us that what she does is create trends on the dancefloors with a cocktail that contains Afrobeat, South African jazz, techno, indie, rock, Cameroonian makossa, funk and disco music with many synthesizers. His second studio album, Uyai, which means Beauty, comes three years after his debut album, and in it, the Ibibian language once again becomes a vehicle for social denunciation with lyrics that talk about issues such as the kidnapping of Chibok girls by Boko Haram and which has the empowerment of women as its central axis. The twelve tracks in the album are a whirlwind of beats that are lived in a much more organic way live, but leave space for calm on steamy tracks that give a truce to the sound tachycardia. A work from the London diaspora that shows the necessary African contribution to dance floors all over the world. A real gift in the middle of the International Decade for Afrodescendants.
Mr. Eazi – Life is Eazi, Vol 1: Accra to Lagos (Starboy Entertaiment) – Nigeria/Ghana
There is no doubt that Mr. Eazi has become one of the most listened to artists this year. Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and residing in Accra, Ghana, he launched himself into the world of music as a party planner during his years at Kumasi University. In 2013, he presented a mixtape with 13 tracks: About to Blow. One of them, the single Skin Tight, quickly became one of the most listened to in various parts of Africa. At the time, Mr. Eazi defined himself as a pioneer of banku music, a fusion of highlife and other Ghanaian sounds with Nigerian chords.
On February 10 of this year he released his new album Life is Eazi, Vol 1: Accra to Lagos under the auspices of his new producer, Wizkid and his record label Starboy Entertainment. It is a tribute to the two cities in which he has raised and developed his artistic talent. His first single, Leg Over, is a hit that has been heard all over the continent and beyond. A song in which the artist complains that his girl plays with him (he haggles over it, like a football) but he doesn’t seem to care so much as long as he gets his share of love, portion says, (or maybe he’s referring to something else, who knows).
Jupiter & Okwess – Kin Sonic (Glitterbeat Records) – Democratic Republic of Congo
Four years after making his international debut, Kinshasa veteran Jupiter Bokondji has released his second and powerful studio work: a bomb of Congolese rhythms full of American funk and soul influences from the 70s and 80s, with powerful distorted guitars and roars of voice that return him to the podium of the most sought-after for stages and festivals that put Africa at their epicenter. Damon Albarn and Gorillaz, as well as Robert Del Naja and Massive Attack, continue to permeate this musical proposal, which was launched on a global (and commercial) scale in 2013. But beyond European influences, Congolese music prevails in this album as it did in the documentary Jupiter’s Dance that 10 years ago discovered it to the most restless music lovers in the West. Raw energy denouncing the political misery in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a lot of bofenia rock at the service of dance, make it one of the indispensable albums of this 2017.
Soul Bang’s – Cosmopolite (Rnb Boss Musik) – Guinea
It was in November 2016 when Guinea’s Soul Bang’s won the RFI award for African revelation artist of the year (this year it went to Mali’s M’Boulillé Koité). So 2017 has been the moment of this artist who started rapping with 11 years old and today mixes traditional rhythms with R&B and all this gives a touch of urban a little scoundrel. As part of the award, the artist has given concerts in most African capitals and also outside the continent.
In March he released his third album, Cosmopolite, which was presented on 12 February at the concert he gave in his city, Conakry, on the esplanade of the People’s Palace. Of note is the single Faré Bombö M’bai. A very danceable theme with a Guinean dance in the background known as Faré ghkni. As the video shows it doesn’t look easy to execute, but it’s all about getting to it.