2022 came and went in a flash. We’re humbled by the volume of great music that flew across our desks. As always we do our best to take a pan-African approach to the continent’s newest music. This year we dove into the Kinyatrap phenomenon of Kigali with Ish Kevin, met Black Sherif in Accra, interviewed major players from Moonshine’s Pierre Kwenders, South Africa’s Moonchild Sanelly or Sudan’s Noori Dorpa, and saw some of our longtime favorites like Blaqbonez and Oumou Sangaré make new strides. Whether it’s the exciting world of alté, the continued traditions of Sahel Blues, the worldwide hip-hop phenomenon or the sweet sounds of amapiano, we put our ear to the ground to give you a taste of everything that marked this year.
A special thanks to our contributors all around the world who are at the heart of this discovery and continue to tell stories about the music that is shaping the world of today and tomorrow. Another thanks to Kabeaushé, the star of a recent PAM Meets, a Kenyan alternative pop phenomenon and graphic artist who has designed the visuals in celebration of this yearly selection. We’ve ordered this albums titles alphabetically to avoid ranking. With that said, please enjoy our modest selection of the 50 albums that have defined 2022.
UK drill prodigy Central Cee took 2022 by storm. With a name like Oakley Neil H T Caesar-Su, the West-London rapper was destined to greatness, and his second mixtape 23 – an impressive follow-up to his debut project Wild West, is the proof. From his collaboration with European trappers and drillers like Freeze Corleone, Ashe22, and Baby Gang to the monumental hit “Obsessed With You”, he dominated the charts and playlists with incisive lyricism and a great sense of musicality.
Étran de l’Aïr
Étran de l’Aïr has established itself as one of the most creative groups in the city of Agadez, choosing to play at all costs and preferring original compositions to covers. On Agadez, their second album on the Sahel Sounds label, the group pays tribute to their hometown and shakes the dunes and the musical borders of Niger with 10 new electric compositions. Etran de l’Aïr also distinguishes itself by its influences which go beyond the local repertoires of Tamachek, Zarma or Haussa, to flirt with other territories (Congolese soukouss, the Malian blues guitar Ali Farka Touré or in the rhythms of the Malian Wassoulou of Oumou Sangaré…).
As Above, So Below
Sampa the Great
The Zambian artist returned in September with As Above, So Below, her latest work designed to highlight her Zambian connection. The album was led by the single “Never Forget”, featuring Chef 187, Tio Nason and Mwanjé. Sung both in Bemba, and in English the song pays homage to zamrock, a musical fusion that emerged in Zambia during the 1970s. “I thought it was fitting to pay homage to those who came before me and merge past, present and future through music and imagery; passing the baton from one generation to the next”, said Sampa the Great. In the album, she also delves into her relationship with femininity as an African woman to create an Eve persona: “the highest version of Sampa that speaks to all facets of her womanhood”.
Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brazz from Sudan’s Red Sea Coast
Noori & His Dorpa Band
Drawn to their hypnotic Sudanese grooves and Naji’s impeccable, airy tenor sax, Noori and his Dorpa managed to catch the interest of Ostinato Records via TikTok shortly after the November military coup which set off country-wide protests in Sudan. Not unlike Enas, the young percussionist who was the focus of the short film Gidam, Noori has decided to put his music in the service of his people, the Bejas. Largely unknown, Beja (pronounced Bee-Jah) culture has been completely marginalised under the harsh rule of Sudan’s former strongman, Omar al-Bashir, who managed to stay in power in Sudan for over thirty years. Despite his ousting in 2019, the situation has changed little. Noori believes the unleashing of Beja music would form the most potent act of resistance. That is the reason why, with his one-of-a-kind tambo-guitar, he released his album Beja Power! which is his contribution to the cause.
“CAPRISONGS… it’s bronzer in the sink, alco pop on the side, a cherry lolly, apple juice when ur thirsty, friends in the park, your favourite person, that one sentence somebody said to you that changed everything, a club pre-game, your bestie who is always late but brings the most to the party, meeting a friend at the airport, just togetherness”, British-Jamaican artist FKA twigs had explained on her social media about her new mixtape. Spanning over 17 tracks, the project features new British rap king Pa Salieu, English artist Shygirl, Nigerian sensation Rema, Jorja Smith, Unknown T, The Weeknd, Daniel Caesar and Dystopia.
Dancing Under the Moon
The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar
The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar offered a deeply hypnotic and intense album entitled Dancing Under the Moon. Recorded in 2019 in the Rif mountains, it contains nine tracks, most of which exceed the 10 minutes mark, that capture the varied style of their ancestral village Jajouka, where the legendary musicians came to be known. It is indeed in the Jebala foothills of Northern Morocco that this community of Sufi trance makers find their roots within the Ahl Serif tribe. They have made their mission to spread Jajouka’s musical tradition, the origins of which dates back one thousand years. This album is the band’s latest testament to the mystic enchantment and spiritual worth of Jajouka.
EAST MPAKA LONDON
Kenya’s Buruklyn Boyz show a softer side to their drill up-shot on EAST MPAKA LONDON. Mpaka is the name of a street that cuts through the Buruburu estate where the Buruklyn Boyz made their come-up. Tracks like “CONFESSION” (everything all caps) have the gnarly drill undertone, but much of the project takes a smoother, r&b inspired melody like on “NISKIZE” with r&b singer Maya Amola or “NOTHING BUT LOVE”. The 16 tracks play through with a single concept and can often blend together, a sign of a well-established universe and worthy accomplishment for a rap debut. Now it will be up to the leaders of the drill and rap scene in Kenya to continue to guide its future, whether it’s the heavy bass and gang signs inspired from the UK, or the sensitive and groovy wave of r&b, we’ll be looking the Burukulyn Boyz to see what’s next.
FUNJADA (KANDENDUE KALUANDA)
Enigmatic Angolan rap group Séketxe have a new full-length in all caps, FUNJADA (KANDENDUE KALUANDA) that matches their high octane energy. Made up of six members, supposedly from Luanda, Murtalha, Djamberão, Rasgdo, Layfado, Black Kokaina, Banzelo make a big statement for Angolan drill and hip hop. The raspy vocals that scream as much as they flow, this time adding a sweet melody and chorus such as on “NGASSAKADILA” make for a potent mix of fresh Lusophone hip hop. The 8-track 30-minute album is dense and intense, making for a heady listen that leaves other rap feel soft and liquid. Surely a group to follow who’s been nailing their new brand of fiery street rap since early 2021 and whose debut project doesn’t disappoint.
Pretoria-born lyricist and Amapiano preacher Focalistic delivered a new sermon. Ghetto Gospel is the rapper’s fourth solo project, and the congregation was crowded. As always, the album is full of A-list guests such as DBN Gogo, Pabi Cooper, and even French rapper MHD. It also welcomes newer attendees, like the rising R&B gem Elaine. Ghetto Gospel gets a slower, solemn start with “Dipuo” (featuring Sjava and Herc Cut The Lights) but quickly goes off. By the time you get to the fifth track and single “Tabela Hape”, Kabza De Small, Mellow & Sleazy, Myztro and M.J put you in a trance. The pressure comes down on the spiritual “Bothloko”, but don’t go sit down now. Focalistic doesn’t disappoint in the second half of the album, with diverse productions and a wavy finale.
The Jamaican prodigy awarded the Grammy for Best Reggae Album two years ago for her short-lived project Rapture, released her first album earlier this year, Gifted. Short but loaded with tributes to her roots, the young Mikayla Simpson aka Koffee weaves a skillful thread between the beautiful hours of soulful reggae and a vision of dancehall and Afrobeats anchored in our time.
Moktar Gania & Gwana Soul
On this album Essaouira native Maâlem (master of art or “one who knows”) Moktar Gania picks up where gnawa legend Mahmoud Guinia left off. The 12 track project is soulful and full of modern instrumentation, but held together by the melismatic voice of Moktar Gania and his guembri providing the hypnotic riffs. The call and response singing, repetitive phrasings and the rhythmic interplay, all definitive marks of gnawa music, find their place in the album. However we all find solos from electric guitars reminiscent of Sahel blues and tracks like “Lalla Moulati” with Neta Elkayam that take gnawa to a modern electronic dimension. And though the entirety of the album may be only a taste in what is traditionally hour long trance inducing sessions that roll deep into the night, we nonetheless get the dense package of what gnawa is for a global listener.
God Created Everything
As a dutiful churchgoer and devout Christian, Linda Ayupuka started singing at the age of four in the children’s choir at the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, later becoming the band’s director. She soon became in-demand, performing with the children’s choir or with her 40-50-piece women’s fellowship choir at many religious ceremonies, be it weddings or funerals. But as her producer, Francis Ayamga, known for his reinvention of Kologo music (a two-stringed traditional Frafra instrument from Northern Ghana) with rap, reggae and electronic sounds, later said, Linda Ayupuka is more than your typical gospel singer. Her high pitched voice also lends itself quite well to disco. Together, they set out to record God Created Everything, a mashup of gospel, disco and savannah sounds, produced with all the D.I.Y vim of Balani Show, Nyege Nyege Tapes and the Awesome Tapes roster. It includes eight highly charged exchanges of polyrhythmic dancefloor beats where Linda and Francis channel traditional Gurenɛ-language, Frafra ceremonial music with rapid fire tempos and hypnotic drum loops, referencing an international palette of dance styles from Malian DJ-led Balani Show street sound and electro-acholi to modern dancehall/rnb.
Heart Of The Heavenly Undeniable
Heart Of The Heavenly Undeniable is a surprising gem by Nigerian act Somadina. It’s punk, rock, alté, electro, rnb, pop, old school and futuristic all at the same time, and fits in a short but very complete 11-track project. Somadina manages to cohesively gather guests from different horizons on an impressively well-thought-out project. Naija’s highlife finest The Cavemen blend seamlessly with her sound on “Small Paradise”, also featuring alté innovator Odunsi (The Engine). And rising talent L0la offers quality bubblegum rock on “WDYWFM”. The opus is definitely risky and unconventional, but “Imagine Giving a Fuck” (the title of her feature with neo-soul vocalist Chi Virgo). Somadina obviously has a vision and a plan. The talent and range beaming from this album is undeniable.
Invasao dos Fluxos
MC Bin Laden
Baile funk supermensch MC Bin Laden delivers a full length album to further secure his place atop Brazil’s favorite favela music. A first project that’s not eponymous, MC Bin Laden takes a minimalist approach to the genre, preferring the grainy and intense singular sounds over a series of incompatible noise. The single “Maczada” shows the power of the singer’s voice with the long vowels and emotive push. Other tracks like “Menorzin do Tapa” are playful and wild, using computer sounds and shaky filters for a bouncy club banger. At times feeling techno, others industrial punk, the entire album is hardcore to its bones. You won’t find any BPM vibes (Brazilian Popular Music) here. Instead it’s all bedspring (“A Cama Balaçava”) coughs (“Minha Mae E Maconheira”) and heavy bars from the Baile Funk supervillian.
José Louis and The Paradox of Love
PAM already loved the lead single on Pierre Kwenders’ album, “Papa Wemba”. As the name suggests, the track is a tribute by the co-founder of the Montreal collective Moonshine to the great Congolese rumba figure. Having been surrounded with the legend’s music during his childhood in Kinshasa, Pierre Kwenders wanted to dedicate this track to him. A rather personal take from the Afro-futurist, but it didn’t prevent him from making it a collaborative project. He invited the Zimbabwean multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, with whom the artist is accustomed to working with, as well as the Portuguese DJ Branko from Buraka som Sistema, the American-Canadian Win Butler (Arcade Fire), the Haitian DJ Michael Brun (known for his collaboration with J Balvin on “Positivo”) and the American DJ Uproot Andy, amongst others.
KMRU & Aho Ssan
KMRU was the focus of one of PAM’s articles. Grandson of the Kenyan folk titan of the same name, he has taken over the Nairobi ambient scene and teamed up with electro composer Niamké Désiré, aka Aho Ssan, under the impetus of Berlin Atonal where they have been invited for the 2021 edition of the festival (Metabolic Rift). Their title “Resurgence” is the direct result of this commission. The sound is more explosive and saturated than KMRU’s usual work. A sentiment shared by Aho Ssan, who says he has “never made something so extreme“. Limen has the same post-apocalyptic intensity as its album cover.
Burna Boy unveiled a highly anticipated album, a project which he called on twitter a “personal body of work” about “the ups and downs, the growth, the L’s and W’s” released a few days after his 31st birthday, in which he managed to secure the contributions of many big heads and up-and-comers including Ed Sheeran, J Balvin, J Hus, Victony, Popcaan, Blxst, Kehlani and Khalid along with a featuring of South African choir Ladysmith Mambazo in the opening and closing tracks. In Love, Damini, the Nigerian singer doesn’t stray too far from his usual afrobeats, keeping in with the spirit of his previous Twice as Tall. Prior to the release, the music video for “For my Hands” featuring the British singer Ed Sheeran revealed a sentimental piece in which both artists put on their best performance for a couple stuck in a lift together. A new peak for elevator music.
Wau Wau Collectif
The unclassifiable union between Swedish producer Karl Jonas Winqvist and musicians from the Toubab Dialaw village in Senegal returned with a second album which expands on the theme explored in their debut.“I just think that education should be offered to all young children in an equal way. It shouldn’t just be young kids learning from old people. It can work the other way around, also.” Winqvist’s statement is made clear in the single “Xale” in which children are given the central role. The track is constructed with the children’s song, around which other supporting sounds are gradually introduced, first thumping hip-hop beats, then the guitar, then the synth’s keys, as if the players were learning from the children’s voices.
Meeting with the King
Since his 2016 breakout, DJ Lag has steadily risen to prominence as one of the key figures in South Africa’s buzzing electronic scene. The gqom boss finally offered his first studio album, Meeting with the King. On these 15 new tracks and 1h20 of music, DJ Lag widens the spectrum of his musical universe to deliver the sound of gqom 2.0 that establishes him as a world-class sonic innovator. Lwazi Asanda Gwala, his real name, wields the amapiano phenomenon as well as Afrotech and Afrohouse flavors to establish his self-proclaimed king status. Scattered throughout the project, we find other stars of the South African scene such as Babes Wodumo, Mampintsha, or Lady Du.
The debut album from Ugandan rapper released on Hakuna Kulala is described as “an explosive call to action that balances his manic presence with production from MC Yallah collaborator Debmaster, Kenyan club futurist Slikback, Berlin-based Japanese beatmaker DJ Die Soon and the inimitable DJ Scotch Rolex.” Blending elements of dancehall, Ugandan music, grime and US hip-hop, Mmaso sees Ecko Bazz address themes such as violence, religion, drug abuse and poverty in the Ugandan slums, all written and rapped in Luganda.
More than three years after the aesthetic shock provoked by the release of El Mal Querer, the fearless Spanish artist continues her experimentation of all kinds on Motomami. Along these 16 new unpredictable tracks, Rosalía leaves her neo-flamenco interpretation to venture purely hybrid paths, where electronic music infiltrates reggaeton, bachata and even a delicate ballad. The Dominican rapper Tokischa is the only guest of what is to date, the most accomplished expression of the boundless creativity of the Catalan artist.
Dar Es Salaam’s DJ Travella represents a new wave of singeli producers who are driving Tanzania’s breakneck dance sound into fresh, innovative spaces. Hamadi Hassani’s music points singeli’s fusion of taarab and techno towards the stars, locating a cyber-singeli style that’s dense, kinetic and unashamedly sexy. Tracks like “London Jomon Beat” will leave no doubt that the East African young producer is capable of bending singeli completely to his will.
Mr. Money With The Vibe
Nigerian artist Asake released his debut album Mr. Money With The Vibe, following his four-track EP Ololade unveiled back in February. It features the remix of the single “Sungba” (the original was included in the EP) with none other than Burna Boy. American rapper Russ is also present on “Reason”. This first full-length album encapsulates Asake’s peculiar style which fuses together Afrobeats with amapiano. Asake’s brand is also well illustrated on the album’s cover showing him smiling hungrily in the mugshot of a wanted poster. This self-fulfilling prophecy expressed in the album’s title will see “Mr. Money with the vibe” continue to earn bankrolls with his contagious sound.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Highly anticipated, Kendrick Lamar was unveiled with “The Heart Part 5” and the deep-fake clip only acted as a foretaste for Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers, which follows the Pulitzer-winning Damn. In it, the Campton-born rapper dwells on many social issues such as racism and poverty. It is split into two volumes of nine tracks each and features many A-listers including Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Thundercat, Baby Keem, Sampha, and producers such as Pharrell, Duval Timothy, the Alchemist, Beach Noise, Boi-1da, Sounwave, Dahi, FNZ, J.LBS and Bekon.
Madalitso Band is a Malawaian duo formed by musicians Yobu Maligwa and Yosefe Kalekeni twenty years ago who, to achieve the sound they were looking for, decided to make their own instruments. Together, they devised a four string guitar, a cowskin foot drum (that is thumped with the heel) and a humongous rectangular homemade one-string slide bass called a Babatone (which doubles as a chair as shown in the album cover). Musakayike was recorded in Malawi in November 2021. The goal was to capture Madalitso Band’s groove and infectious energy on stage. Not an easy task as their songs usually lasts well over ten minutes, which they managed to fine-tune and trim back for the purpose of this album. The title-song encapsulates the band’s good vibes with a playful groove and the pair’s harmonising vocals, creating a sound that defies their stripped-back set up.
Natural Brown Prom Queen
American violinist Sudan Archives returned with her second album to further reaffirm her all-round artistic status. Going from disco-infused songs like the opener “Home Maker” to the almost undefinable “NBPQ (Topless)” with its Persian vibes, to the upbeat and empowering “Selfish Soul”, to R&B ballads like “ChevyS10”, to soul tracks like “FLUE”… Always with a touch of her signature violin virtuosity. Yet, not quite all over the place as her 18-track album manages to stay cohesive despite exploring a diverse range of genres. The creativity shown in the music videos is also worth mentioning with her colorful and provocative visuals. Natural Brown Prom Queen explores themes that intertwine with Sudan Archives’ experiences. It deals with race, womanhood, relationships, and places, displaying both the artist’s vulnerabilities and confidence.
N’Djila Wa Mudujimu
Lady Aicha & Pisco Cranes (Fulu Miziki)
HHY & The Macumbas’ producer Jonathan Saldanha, who recorded N’Djila Wa Mudujimu, manages to capture their revolutionary sounds inspired by Congolese soukous, and an almost undefinable mix of punk, electronic music, industrial sonics and spiritual jazz. N’Djila Wa Mudujimu is a deeply enjoyable album throughout which encapsulates Fulu Miziki’s Lady Aicha and Pisco Cranes’ style, even with the band’s recent split. While N’Djila Wa Mudujimu might be one of the groups final albums since the recent split of its members, we can still count on the artists to keep the spirit of Fulu Miziki alive in all their endeavours.
“I could talk about a new Lisbon that blinks and shines, but that’s not the idea. Acknowledging history is the only way to honor its beautiful natural light”. Angola-born and Portugal-raised producer Batida reflects on Portugal’s colonialismo heritage in this ten-track project. Enlisting the help of international guests such as Mayra Andrade, Poté, Nástio Mosquito, and Ikonoklasta, Batida takes a historical approach to the different genres, bringing the lusophone scene to life: afro-house, kazucuta, hip-hop,… It’s electronic and organic, instrumental and vocal, all at the same time. Neon Colonialismo is “intended to be danced to, to think to, and probably also to smile to”.
NO THANK YOU
A surprise drop from the UK rapper and Mercury Prize winner, Little Simz has unveiled her most self assured project yet. 10 tracks, no features and smooth, straightforward productions, this album is a return to the source and a focus on airtight lyricism that shows why Little Simz can carry the rap game on her shoulders as an independent artist. Working through self trauma or criticizing the underbelly of the music industry, Little Simz’s lyrics are witty and cutting, with a flow to match. “Danger, what you afraid of? Are you realizing now nothing can restrain her?” she raps on “Heart on Fire”, a haughty claim that doesn’t stop her from acknowledging her weaknesses on the same track. The cut also sports an orchestral reprise with a drumline reminiscent of her 2021 Sometimes I Might Be Introvert opener “Introvert”. Same goes for the epic and heady “Gorilla” which breaks down with a jazzy bassline, languid flow and some of the most quotable bars on the album. “Big art collector, silent investor, film director, beatin’ on my chest, goin’ apeshit. Puttin’ in the graveshift. Ain’t life what you make it?” You heard Simz. Go make it.
Nozhet El Nofous
Cairo-based violinist, producer and composer Nancy Mounir has taken an interest in Egyptian singers from the 1920s, tracing their musical lives and learning about tuning systems outside of the dominant scales in the Arabic mainstream. “I first started researching their music, because I deeply connected with what these artists were singing about”, says Mounir. After six years, she released her debut album Nozhet El Nofous (نزهة النفوس – Promenade of the Souls) that revives the work of forgotten Egyptian singers before the introduction of western-style notation system as the norm. In it Mounir pays tribute to artists, such as Mounira El Mahdeya, Hayat Sabri or Fatma Serry, who were not invited to the Congress of Arab music that took place in 1932, the aim of which was to make Arab music more palatable to western ears.
Oku Ngwo – Di Ochi
Oriental Brothers International Band
When Dan Satch founded the Oriental Brothers in 1973, shortly after the terrible Biafran War that decimated Eastern Nigeria, he and his “brothers” – Kabaka and Sir Warrior – helped to raise the morale of a region and a country exhausted by the ordeal. In the 1980s, with the departure of two co-founders, the star of the Oriental Brothers, which Dan Satch had kept the keys to, would decline. Nevertheless, the group was going to survive, renewing its members in the course of time. It was only when Lucas Silva, founder of Palenque Records, rediscovered their music remixed in the champetta parties of Northern Colombia, that he started looking for this magnificent Igbo Highlife group. Not only to reissue their old treasures, but to bring them back, 50 years after the birth of the group, to the studio. Oku Ngwo – Di Ochi is the fruit of this, which retains the sound and optimistic verve that everyone today, not just Nigeria, needs.
South African star Moonchild Sanelly presented her latest album Phases, an ode to womanhood in every shape, all deserving of the same respect, from the badass rebels to the soft-hearted romantics. The album is tailored with different types of public in mind, amapiano and SA house aficionados with “Covivi” and “Soyenza”, trap and drill enthusiasts with “Let it rip”, “Uli” and “Strip Club”, new rave electronic music fanatics with “Over you”, “Bad bitch budget” and “Money tree”, clubbers with the delirious fast techno-infused bumpers “Chicken” and hopeless romantics with nostalgic ballads like “Too late” and “Bird so bad”. The latter especially revealed one of the artist’s unknown sides where she presents a more vulnerable version of herself, singing about a difficult heartbreak.
Raves & Roses
Rema’s “afrorave” sound has definitely become a staple on both the Nigerian and international scene. His debut album Raves & Roses is a sweet collection of slow-wine, after hours Afrobeats tunes, custom-made by main producer London for the 22-year-old superstar. Solemn and introspective on the first track “Divine” (his real name), Rema quickly dives into his more flaunty, self-assured, women-loving universe. His confidence is clearly what makes him stand out, and songs like “FYN” featuring AJ Tracey (produced by KelP and KDaGreat) will remind you who you’re listening to. But the appeal around Rema’s sound reflects in tracks like the bouncy “Oroma Baby” and “Carry”, and sensual tunes like “Dirty” and the explicit “Soundgasm”. Rema makes love music, in every sense of the word.
Reason to Smile
UK rapper of Ghanaian descent unveiled his debut album “Reason to Smile” narrated by his Ghana-born mother musing about her son’s upbringing and speaking to the difficulties of a London winter after making the courageous decision to move abroad. The album, though fitting as a concept piece, has enough funk, horns, hip-hop and groove for several projects, and was teased with super smooth cuts like “War Outside” featuring Lex Amor and the super funky “Payback” with London rapper Knucks. We spoke with Kojey on the eve of the release about his “space and bass” sound as it defines his debut.
The queen of Angolan kuduro finally released her very first album, Sakidila. The author of the iconic “Wegue Wegue” of Buraka Som Sistema lets her contagious energy fully express itself on these 12 tracks. Between tender Afropop, hybrid electronic meetings and kuduro discharge as she knows how to do so well, Pongo showed the extent of her artistic palette, surrounded by a number of talented collaborators like Lazy Flow, King Doudou or Meryl.
Some Nights I Dream of Doors
Obongjayar makes Afro-fusion that is heavily colored in jazz, funk, soul, and electronic synths. Nonetheless, he often seems to have multiple vocal personalities within his records, just like in “Some Nights I Dream of Doors.” For Obongjayar, this diversity is hardwired from the messages that inspire him while he writes his music. “That is how I see music. If I am making a song where I am trying to communicate a certain idea, my voice becomes morphed into that feeling. It is just the way it is. Luckily, for me, I have found a way how I can render those feelings through songs, with the voice that I have.”
Son of Jacob
Ghanaian rapstar Kwesi Arthur dropped his very first full-length album Son of Jacob after much anticipation. Indeed, the young musician has established himself as one of his country’s most prominent artists, capable of releasing the fiercest rap bars as well as making the party people dance with the sweetest Afropop melodies. The biblically evocative album contains 15 songs and features UK Afrofusion collective NSG, Ghanaian artist Bigg Homie Flee, British rapper M Huncho and Nigerian popstar Adekunle Gold.
The Franco-Cuban duo Ibeyi unveiled their latest album Spell 31, as bewitching as its name suggests. While managing to incorporate folk, r&b, electro, soul or jazz twists, the twin sisters continue to promote their ancestral culture through their track “Sisters II Sisters” in which features a very specific Yoruba rhythm. It is an ode to their sisterhood and their immutable complicity, perfectly showcased in the music video. The rest of the album is culturally transcendent as well. In it, the daughters of Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz (member of Buena Vista Social Club) engage against racism and other contemporary issues in English, Spanish, Yoruba, and French throughout the album.
Subaru Boys: FINAL HEAVEN
The prodigy of Nigerian alté returned with his long-awaited sophomore album, Subaru Boys: FINAL HEAVEN, almost three years after the release of his breakthrough project, Mandy & The Jungle. Following the footsteps of that first album, Cruel Santino, formerly known as Santi, set his new project in a conceptual universe largely inspired by the aesthetics of Japanese anime. The album includes 21 tracks entirely co-produced by the Nigerian artist, with notable appearances from Koffee, Amaarae and Skepta to name a few.
Senegalese bass player Alune Wade released his fifth album entitled Sultan, revisiting his journey as a traveling musician with his futuristic afro-jazz touch. “Brazilians, New Yorkers, North Africans, Ethiopians, Cubans, French, Austrians… I’ve met many people. The further you go, the more you grow musically. All those I met, all that I listened to fed my reflection”, Alune Wade told PAM. Indeed, the artist focused on having many of his former collaborators featured in this album including Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa, Moroccan singer Aziz Sahmaoui, the Americans Lenny White et Bobby Ray Sparks, the Tunisian singer Mounir Troudi and the Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali. “This record is ultimately the sum of all the experiences I’ve had over the last ten years”, the artist says to explain why he used the figure of the sultan: “This sultan is a man who travels with his knowledge, his family, his experience…”
The Strings of São Domingos
The Ano Nobo Quartet
On The Strings of São Domingos, The Ano Nobo Quartet delivered a fresh take on Koladera, a guitar-driven, subtly rhythmic sound of a lighter spirit. This album was recorded in early 2021 in three locations on Santiago Island: at home, by the ocean, and on the volcanic hills of Cape Verde. This album is also a tribute to the great poetic and revolutionary figures of the 1970s common to this part of Africa, José Carlos Schwarz and João Bernardo Vieira.
The Villain I Never Was
20-year-old Konongo rapper Black Sherif released a highly anticipated first album, The Villain I Never Was. This project dropped after an impressive run of hits, such as “Second Sermon” and its official remix featuring Burna Boy, the heart-felt “Kwaku The Traveller” and more recently the introspective “Soja”. With The Villain I Never Was and its 14 tracks, Black Sherif delivered on every promise. He’s versatile, from singing to rapping with his unique voice. He switches seamlessly from choir-drill on tracks like “Wasteman”, to emotional reggae on “Don’t Forget Me”, produced by London. This first project is a very personal deep dive into Black Sherif’s mind, and a great demonstration of the Ghanaian act’s range and potential.
The Durban trap lyricist and producer offered his fourth EP, following his debut album B4Now in 2021. THE4MULA is a short trap gem in 8 songs. Blxckie goes hard for 21 minutes, flowing seamlessly through the bass-heavy instrumentals, making it sound like one long surprising track. From the get-go, “plug call [freestyle]” is charged, confident, and the project never loses momentum. Even the rookie South-African guests manage to keep up. The bouncy anthem “werrkk” features newcomer Mench. Young female rapper Scumie is impressive on “investigate”, also featuring K1llbrady. THE4MULA is high-speed, only slowing down the tempo towards the end of the EP with hit singles “Khupuka”, and “Kwenzekile” featuring Madumane and Chang Cello. A solid recipe, cementing Blxckie’s talent as one of South-Africa hottest rappers.
Malian diva Oumou Sangaré released Timbuktu, her thirteenth album to add to her already impressive discography. The LP is imbued with different cultures, having been recorded between France, the United States and Mali. It is therefore no wonder that her new project is a mix of different genres, blues, folk, rock and traditional Malian music. The pop-infused single “Sarama” is a great example. Released for the album announcement, it mixes the warm voice of the icon with kamele n’goni (typical Malian lute), djembe and blues guitar. The themes explored are reminiscent of her debut album Moussolou (her thoughts on her country, the mysteries of existence, and the condition of African women). “I put my life into this record – this life in which I knew hunger, the humiliation of poverty and fear, and from which I now draw glory.”
Kevin Semana popularly known as Ish Kevin is a young artist based in Rwanda. His long awaited project, Trappish II, holds big names in the industry such as Kivumbi King, Confy and Yannick YMK, one of the pioneers of Kinyatrap. Ish Kevin said that this mixtape is coming to accomplish what the Trappish movement started by giving comfort to the youth and young generation in the industry. “After releasing this mixtape, there is no going back. This is a game changing project,” he said.
Aṣa breathes fresh air into the music scene as she returns with the release of her eagerly anticipated fifth studio album V. This is a full-circle moment for her as it’s the first project she’s created entirely in Nigeria. Born in Paris and raised in Lagos, Aṣa grew up in a household where music reigned supreme, with her father who was a cinematographer, music and her Nigerian roots has been an essential part of Aṣa’s life. Aṣa told PAM in an interview this year, “Lagos, Nigeria is always with me wherever I go because that’s my roots, that’s where I grew up and that’s the story I know. Whenever I am in Paris or wherever I go, I always bring Lagos into whatever I’m doing.” The 10-track body of work which features brand new collaborations with Grammy Award-winning global superstar Wizkid, Ghanaian Afro-fusion sensation Amaarae, and the popular Nigerian highlife sibling duo The Cavemen, including the project’s precursors “Mayana” and “Oceans”, is everything soulful, breathy and ethereal.
Where I’m Meant To Be
Following their 2019 first album You Can’t Steal My Joy, the British quintet came back with a lively, refreshing project: Where I’m Meant To Be. “Everybody would think that I’m gonna be playing jazz like the Americans. No, I’m gonna be playing jazz my way,” says Nigerian jazz icon Tony Allen, quoted from an audio sample on the album. And Ezra Collective plays in its own unique style. The band, created by Gorillaz’s drummer Femi Koleoso, taps into an impressive diversity of sounds. Bossa-nova, afrobeats, hip-hop, reggae… The group’s jazz is eclectic, modern, and international, with guests like Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical, Emeli Sandé, and Nao’s fairy voice on the last title “Love In Outer Space”, référencing legendary musician Sun Ra.
Where’s The One?
Where’s the One is the result of a unique collaboration between legendary Congolese bands Konono N°1, Kasai Allstars and nine musicians from the experimental rock scene – Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Matthew Mehlan (Skeletons). A PAM favourite is the track “Banza Banza”. In it, Congotronics International revisits Congolese rumba with a proto-punk touch. It is a strangely well-suited mix that sees ten singers, five guitarists, three likembe players, two bassists and three drummers – who were originally brought together in 2011 for the Congotronics vs. Rockers tour – combining the electrified traditional music of the Congolese artists with the experimental avant-rock styles of their Western compatriots.
The Nigerian rapper came to preach the good word and good rap on his second solo album Young Preacher. After two EPs, and the Sex Over Love project in 2021, Blaqbonez came back with even more energy. Efficient on 14 afrobeats-infused rap titles, the Chocolate City talent isn’t a rookie anymore. The first single “Back In Uni”, produced by Jae5, gave a fair idea of this new opus, full of humour and Nigerian pop references. Blaqbonez is confident and self-assured. He doesn’t hold back on anything. He samples Youssou N’Dour, and even Summer Walker on “Fake Nikes”, featuring South-African rapper Blxckie and Ghanaian alté voice Amaarae. He even mimics Zinoleesky on “Fashionnova”. But Young Preacher is an inspired album, showcasing the rapper’s ability to rhyme and switch flows on diverse beats, leaving you wanting more.
“You have to keep rapping, just keep feeding them the rap. That’s why right now, I feel like if there’s a rap conversation, my name has to come up”. Since his rise in 2016, PsychoYP has indeed been feeding the people with high-quality rap. After three EPs, the first part of the three YPSZNs made it to every Nigerian rap aficionados’ playlist. With the follow-up YPSZN2, the Abuja rapper became a staple and a mandatory reference on the scene. In 2020, he explored Afrobeats with Apex Village (his label) signee Azanti on the Yp & Azanti, Vol.1 tape, followed by the album Euphoria in 2021. Now he’s back to the trilogy with YPSZN3. This new project is YP at his best: bass-heavy trap, killer verses, some drill-infused beats, and very diverse productions. YPSZN3 includes 11 features, including of course Odumodublvck and Azanti.