From Diamond Platnumz’s update of a Tanzanian classic to an ode to dirt-cheap South African lager, these are the tunes that got a continent shimmying this year.
The last few years have seen songs from Africa, particularly afrobeats, gradually gaining global attention. In 2016, the continent finally stamped its musical influence on the rest of the world; Wizkid collaborated with Drake on the summer smash hit One Dance, and no less than five stars signed mega deals with some of the biggest record labels on the other side of the Atlantic. Here’s a pick of 10 of the best songs that got Africa grooving all year long – from artists looking to light up 2017.
Tekno – Pana
Not everyone can make a hit based on sexualising west Africa’s favourite tuber crop, the cassava; but Tekno Miles succeeds spectacularly. The 23-year old glides gloriously on an unruly instrumental to wreak havoc; spraying beautiful nonsense about doing anything for love. Party-goers need succour for the soul as two of Africa’s biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, battle currency woes due that mirror those of their western counterparts. If you’re in the mood and looking to hit the floor like your currency, this is the song to help you gravitate.
Diamond Platnumz feat Rayvanny – Salome
In the 90s, Tanzanian legend Saida Karoli’s classic Maria Salome was a hit across most of east Africa and was one of the soundtracks to Tyler Perry’s 2013 film, Peeples. More than two decades later, a remake by her compatriot Naseeb Abdul Juma – better known in these parts as the singing sensation Diamond Platnumz – has become a hit, too. The 27-year-old’s version features Wasafi Music labelmate Rayvanny and combines some of the best traditional outfits across Africa in its colourful slideshow of a video that has over 10m YouTube views. It’s a Kiswahili extravaganza.
Mr Eazi feat Joey B and Dammy Krane – Hollup
Tosin Ajibade has taken a path less travelled by artists on the Nigerian-Ghanaian axis, succeeding in his adopted country first before returning to his home country and consolidating his position as 2016’s breakout star in the region. His hits are currently dominating dancefloors from Accra to Lagos and even Boko Haram-ravaged Maiduguri, where he made a surprise appearance in October to donate relief items to the refugees (he became the first Nigerian A-lister to visit the city in a decade and the second celebrity after Bono since the insurgency began in 2009). Hollup is a mid-tempo goofy ode to it-girls on social media, with help from Ghana’s Joey B and Nigeria’s Dammy Krane. The opening line – “You think say the world dey revolve around your bum bum” – will suck you in, before he sings about being ignored first, then being fussed over now he’s a star.
Patoranking feat Sarkodie – No Kissing Baby
No Kissing Baby is another west African connection that harmonises Nigerian pidgin, Ghanaian Twi and Jamaican patois into one rolling ball of feel-good music, as Nigerian dancehall-reggae star Patoranking advocates for sexual consent alongside Ghana’s Sarkodie who pauses mid-flow to ask: can I touch you? The first single off his God Over Everything album, it follows in Patoranking’s usually conservative tradition of propagating good morals. However, while the lyrics show a tendency to negotiate, the riffs on the instrumental will go against your will to stay static. It’s no surprise that video has surpassed 10m YouTube views.
Babe Wodumo feat Mampintsha – Wololo
She came out of virtually nowhere, but 23-year-old Bongekile Simelane has put the otherwise unknown gqom, a dance sub-genre of the popular kwaito from the city of Durban, on the map. On Wololo, the first single off her debut album, she features label boss Mampintsha in what has become the summer anthem in Johannesburg and environs, displacing other established acts from the airwaves and charts.
Eugy x Mr Eazi – Dance for Me
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad Mr Eazi verse, and it’s no different on Dance for Me, during which he hops on as a guest vocalist to usher in Ghanaian rapper Eugy. The unofficial anthem of this year’s Notting Hill carnival, Eugy urges a love interest to perform some of Africa’s most popular contemporary dances – the Nigerian shoki, the Ghanaian alkayida and the imported dab – as they live happily ever after.
Kwesta feat Cassper Nyovest – Ngudu
This laid-back cut is dedicated to the cheap South African beer that rappers, Kwesta and Cassper Nyovest – arguably the foremost rapper on the continent – drink while enjoying the finer things in life. It is an exercise in genre obfuscation, a blend of kwaito, hip-hop and trap music to lay the groundwork for a summer of chilling.
Yemi Alade – Koffi Anan
Ms Alade, one of the biggest female artists out of Africa right now, launched 2016 with this fire freestyle which namechecks two of the most popular Ghanaians alive: former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and tongue-twisting hip-hop artist Sarkodie. The Nigerian songstress’s goals in the interim are neither for regional nor world peace, but to introduce a new dance that is a hybrid of Ghana’s world-famous azonto, its less-travelled sibling, Nigeria’s alingo and a few other energetic moves.
DJ Maphorisa feat Wizkid, DJ Buckz – Soweto Baby
One-quarter of South African band Uhuru, DJ Maphorisa is one of the lesser-known names with co-producer credits on Drake’s One Dance, the summer anthem that got the entire world – and aliens on the mothership in Earth’s orbit – tapping its feet. He recruits Wizkid, who was also on the chart-topper, and fellow South African DJ Buckz for this kwaito track about a mesmerising girl from Nelson Mandela’s hometown, Soweto.
Sauti Sol and Alikiba – Unconditionally Bae
After clinching a nomination for best international act at the BET awards and getting Barack Obama to do the Lipala dance in 2015, frontline Kenyan boy band Sauti Sol’s hot streak continued this year with the stellar monochrome visuals for the a cappella hit Kuliko Jana. Their biggest work was linking with Tanzania’s Alikiba (who signed to Sony Music this year) for the dance number Unconditionally Bae, which has racked up over 4m YouTube views.