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10 best albums of January 2023

Every month, PAM browses the pan-African scenes to offer a selection of ten fresh releases. This January, we're starting the year right listening to Seyi Vibez, Aya Nakamura, LA Timpa, Ajebutter22 and more.

Cor d’Agua


Fluid and free, like water. With Cor d’Agua and its twenty tracks, T-Rex wants to infiltrate all genres and flood all playlists. Illustrated with an enigmatic cover and punctuated by sounds between R&B, rap and trap, this album between a PARTYNEXTDOOR’s COLORS and Travis Scott’s Birds In The Trap is the eighth opus for this prolific Portuguese artist, with an obvious look towards the United States. At ease on tracks like “Pé Novo” and “Nao Mexer”, T-Rex takes it the Post Malone way. On the single “UUUUHH” or the XXL collaboration “Old Skool” with his Mafia 73 peers, he embodies the codes of Cactus Jack, Portuguese version. Softer and more melodic on tracks such as “Volta” and “Jumpinit”, T-Rex manages to bring together all his influences, under one project. 

Listen here.


Aya Nakamura

Most listened to French-speaking artist in the world in 2022 (on Spotify), French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura signs her third album with DNK, an abbreviation of her surname Dianoko and a logical follow-up after her first opus NAKAMURA in 2018, and the second volume AYA in 2020. The 27-year-old act’s first projects mixed r’n’b, afropop and undeniable zouk accents, sparingly exploited to create the signature “Aya” sound. This time, Aya Nakamura returns to her first influences and delivers 15 tracks mostly carried by the tempos of zouk and zouk love. To do so, she invites the Martinique icon Kim on the track “Chacun”, the Puerto Rican Myke Towers on the duet “T’as peur”, and surprisingly the rapper SDM on “Daddy”. She also excels in solo with ” SMS “, a sample of the hit title “Mon Soleil” by Princess Lover. Aya doesn’t forget the afro scene, and offers “Cadeau”, featuring rapper Tiakola. 

Listen here.

Drums (Lata)

DJ Lilocox

With 43 tracks and more than 80 minutes of sounds, the Portuguese DJ Lilicox empty his hard drives, for our greatest pleasure, in the album Drums (Lata). Like the genesis of this batida prodigy, this opus is the result of several years of sets, productions, trials and research, mixed into a coherent and experimental ensemble. Through this project, Lilocox’s roots and influences are revealed and sublimated: his love of house music, the impact of Cape Verdean sounds and the creative madness of his beginnings with the Piquenos DJs do Guetto Crew. The very title of the project, “Lata”, refers to the first moments of a batida music denigrated by the clubs and purists, before being adopted by the underground scene as the new breath of Portuguese club music. Drums (Lata) is an archival piece, a witness of a still young current, made to last. 

Listen here.

Face To Face

Vusi Mahlasela, Norman Zulu & Jive Connection

In the 1990s, as Nelson Mandela was released, Mahlasela published his first album, the Sotho folk project When You Come Back. In May 1994, its eponymic title graced the Father of the Nation’s presidential inauguration ceremony, and Mahlasela echoed his calls for peace on Wisdom of Forgiveness. Still following Mandela’s path, Mahlasela traveled to Sweden, a long-time ally of the anti-apartheid movement and the scene of a magical encounter between the singer and the band Jive Connection. “It was such a fantastic voyage to work with Vusi and all the Swedish musicians. Vusi and Norman Zulu teaching the Swedish guys to do all their backing vocals in all these different South African languages,” explains the drummer Erik Bodin. Twenty years later, the lost-gems dealers at Strut Records revived the decades-old recordings. Face To Face features 14 groovy tracks flowing from township traditional sounds to jazz and reggae. 

Listen here.



Born during a retreat a year ago, Isibuko is South African singer Sjava’s highly-anticipated follow-up to his 2018 installment Umqhele. Intimate and introspective, the opus follows the act on a raw, personal journey through a rollercoaster of emotions: envy, forgiveness, jealousy, addiction… Isubuko means “mirror”, and with this project, he aims to be a projection of his listeners’ feelings and flaws. For this reason, Isibuko is “an album that you could listen to when you’re alone at home or in the car”. Silence is needed to enjoy the 18 tracks of this hour-long piece, on which Sjava floats seamlessly on solemn, deep indie-folk ballads and slow R&B-infused productions. The album features great names of the South African scene, including Sampa The Great and Saudi on “Ungavumi”, and the Q Twins and Mzukulu on “Isoka”. 

Listen here.

Memory Card

Seyi Vibez

Third time’s a charm. After his debut EP NSVN and the more acclaimed sophomore Billion Dollar Baby (and its deluxe), Ketu, Nigeria’s eccentric act Seyi Vibez finally nailed it with Memory Card, a short mixtape exploring neo-fuji sound à la Asake. But the comparison is too easy, and the 31-year-old singer is slowly building his own sound. Memory Card is neo-fuji-based, amapiano-infused, but never too far from afropop. But there is also something about how Seyi Vibez vocals echo throughout the whole project, answering a church-like choir, airy female vocals or the amapiano signature-whistle. It’s almost offbeat, but intentional and self-assured, just like his lyrics. Even the first track, titled “G.O.A.T”, sets the tone. With this project, Seyi Vibez is off to a flying start. Maybe 2023 is Seyi’s year?

Listen here.

O Paraíso

Lucas Santtana

It’s in front of us, and we must open our eyes and learn to contemplate it in depth” insists Lucas Santtana. “It” is nature, biodiversity, the Earth, a subject at the heart of his latest opus. Disciple of the bossa nova and tropicália of Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, the soteropolitan delivers O Paraíso, a ninth album with joyous sounds, but placed under the sign of contemplation and vigilance. In ten tracks, the singer-songwriter invites, implores even, to take a step back, and truly look at the priceless beauty and richness of earth, threatened with extinction by mankind. Like a message from the planet itself, Lucas Santtana and the children’s choir that accompanies him call out to the audience on the track “La Biosphère”. When it comes to the Amazonian forest losing ground in Brazil, or the species in the process of disappearing, “you must make a choice, death or life?”

Listen here.

Pity by One All Good Treasure

LA Timpa

Picture the color palette of an early 2000’s drama, the empty streets of a suburban neighborhood, with his stationned cars and its brownish yellow dead leaves littering the ground in heaps. Or imagine a walk at night in a sleepless city, the cars headlights and corner shops storefronts temporarily blinding you, the muffled sound of the streets disturbing the silence. Well, Nigerian-Canadian multi-talented act LA Timpa has the perfect soundtrack for it. With his third album Pity by One All Good Treasure, released under London label O___o?, the definitively alternative singer and producer manages to capture the essence of everyday life, its boring moments, its highs, its lows, its silences and its dull moments. The 11 tracks of this electronic, digital piece are windows to his world, where melancholia meets fear, calmness and pensiveness. 

Listen here.


Rian Treanor & Ocen James

Latest release from the Nyege Nyege label, Saccades is the kind of gem you have to hear to understand. This 10-track project is a fusion of the genius of Ugandan Ocen James and British Rian Treanor. James is a master of the strings, especially the rigi rigi, a single-stringed violin with a hypnotic sound that is as bright as it is menacing, rooted in the traditions of the Acholi people. Treanor is an electronic music ace, raised on rave music. In 2020, he and Nyege Nyege released his album File Under UK Metaplasm, a bold dissection of dance music. This time, the two talents worked together to digitize Ocen James’ compositions. The result is indescribable, disorienting, and leaves all the room for imagination. Saccades oscillates between lucid dreams (“Memory Pressure”) and night terrors (“As It Happens”), wild raves (“Tiyo Ki”) and moonlit ceremonies (“Casascade”). 

Listen here.

Soundtrack to the Goodlife


The “minister of enjoyment” is finally back. Following his 2017 opus What Happens In Lagos, the Nigerian singer had only delivered joint projects, in the shape of the Make E No Cause Fight tapes, uniting forces with alté act Boj and rapper Falz. Six years later, Ajebutter22 finally offers a full project, and it’s obviously titled Soundtrack to the Good Life. The 15-track album includes his impressive single run of the last few years, with the self-produced hit song “King of Parole”, as well as the Oxlade feature “Unconditionally” and the Kida Kudz link-up “Confam”. The guest list even includes UK rapper Not3s, LADIPOE, Ghanaian act KiDi and more. No surprises here, Soundtrack to the Good Life is a chill, colorful and joyous playlist for the pool parties, the sunny days and the endless nights. 

Listen here.